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California’s Solar Industry Adds 21,000 Jobs, Now Tops 75,000 Workers

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Workers install solar panels on a home in San Rafael, February 2015.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The fast-growing solar industry got a State of the Union shout-out from President Obama last month after The Solar Foundation research group announced industry employment hit 208,859 workers as of November 2015, up 20.2 percent from a year earlier.

Now the foundation has released state-by-state numbers showing that California, which leads the nation in solar power, has more than a third of those jobs and is piling on new ones at a fast clip.

The Solar Foundation said Wednesday that solar industry employment in California grew to 75,598 last November, a gain of nearly 21,000 from 2014. Most of the solar jobs in California -- just over 40,000 -- are in installing photovoltaic systems on rooftops and in large ground-mounted arrays.

From The Solar Foundation's solar job census for 2015.
From The Solar Foundation's solar job census for 2015.

The foundation expects the state’s solar industry to grow by another 14,000 or so this year. That expected growth is driven by the extension in December of a federal investment tax credit, the state’s requirement that utilities get 50 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2030 and the recently approved continuation of a solar-friendly “net metering” policy.

California had about 12,000 megawatts of solar power operating as of last November, about half the nation’s total. Data compiled from daily reports by the state’s major grid manager indicate that in 2015, solar became the No. 1 source of renewable energy in California for the first time.


In his State of the Union Address, President Obama said solar “employs more Americans than coal -- in jobs that pay better than average,” a claim that met with the approval of fact-checkers. Nationally, solar installers earn an average of $21 an hour, the Solar Foundation said, a figure that bumps up to $22 on the West Coast.

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