IREC: Solar industry jobs more than doubled in the last decade, up 9 percent in 2021

solar worker

Solar energy jobs were up in 47 states and increased 9 percent nationwide from 2020 to 2021 to a total of 255,037 solar workers. These findings are in the annual National Solar Jobs Census released by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), an independent national nonprofit organization.

This job growth took place in a year of record solar installations driven by increased demand for renewable energy among residential customers, municipalities, businesses, and electric utilities. Overall, the solar industry added 21,563 jobs in 2021, with more than two-thirds of these new jobs (14,350) at installation and project development firms.

“America’s solar industry came back strong from the pandemic to expand the clean energy workforce across all regions of the country,” said Larry Sherwood, President and CEO at IREC. “The future remains uncertain in light of the supply chain disruptions, trade issues, and stalled federal policy in the first part of 2022. There is potential for unprecedented job growth in the coming years if federal, state, and local leaders take action to expand clean energy use and address climate change.”

The full report and related data can be downloaded at here.

Over the past decade, U.S. solar employment has more than doubled from 105,145 jobs in 2011 to 255,037 jobs in 2021. The most significant growth has taken place in the installation and project development sector, where employment more than tripled since 2011 to reach 168,960 jobs in 2021.

At the state level …

  • California (75,712 jobs)
  • Florida (11,761 jobs),
  • Massachusetts (10,548 jobs),
  • New York (10,524 jobs), and
  • Texas (10,346 jobs).

These are followed by Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Ohio, each with 7,000 to 9,000 jobs.

California also led for the number of jobs added in 2021 (7,035 new jobs), followed by Massachusetts (+1,053 jobs), Nevada (+1,019 jobs), and Arizona (+932 jobs). Other strong growth states were Ohio, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Georgia, each with 800–900 new jobs. See a complete table of solar jobs by state and job growth from 2020 here.

“Solar energy is an economic growth engine, creating new jobs while it helps us confront the climate crisis,” said Dan Reicher, Senior Scholar, Stanford Woods Institute and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy. “There is vast and untapped potential to expand solar installations and related jobs across the United States, in an environmentally sustainable manner, as we help businesses and families access this renewable energy source.”

The solar industry still has more work to do to meet its goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion and extend the benefits of the clean energy economy to underrepresented groups.

The report found that women made up just under 30 percent of the solar workforce in 2021, while Black employees made up 8 percent of the workforce, Latino or Hispanic workers made up 20 percent, and Asian workers made up 9 percent. Fewer than one-third of solar firms reported strategies to increase female, ethnic or racial minority, or LGBTQ+ hires.

The solar industry does offer a path to a career for those without a two- or four-year college degree. Less than one-third of entry-level solar jobs (31 percent) require a bachelor’s degree, while 65 percent of firms provide on-the-job training. In a year with a tight labor market, 89 percent of firms reported difficulty finding qualified applicants, including 35 percent that said it was “very difficult.”

This report analyzes data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s U.S. Energy and Employment Report 2022 and a supplemental followup survey of solar establishments. Both surveys were administered by BW Research Partnership. The National Solar Jobs Census defines a solar employee as someone who spends 50 percent or more of their time on solar-related work. The National Solar Jobs Census was first published in 2010 by The Solar Foundation, which merged with IREC in 2021.

Have you checked out our YouTube page?

We have a ton video interviews and additional content on our YouTube page. Recently we debuted Power Forward! -- a collaboration with BayWa r.e. to discuss higher level industry topics as well as best practices / trends for running a solar business today.

Our longer running side project is The Pitch -- in which we have awkward discussions with solar manufacturers and suppliers about their new technology and ideas so that you don't have to. We discuss everything from residential rail-less deck attaching and home solar financing to large-scale energy storage value stacking and utility-driven new home solar + storage microgrids.

Tags: ,