Solar energy industry employs more people than the coal industry in the USFebruary 9, 2017
The solar market continues to show major economic potential
The solar energy industry in the United States now offers more jobs than the coal industry, according to a recent survey from Solar Foundation. The solar sector has been growing quickly in the country over the past few years, even outpacing fossil-fuels in terms of new energy generation capacity. Despite this, however, solar only accounts for approximately 1% of all electricity produced within the United States, but the sector represents significant economic potential that is impossible to ignore.
Survey highlights the growing number of jobs in the solar energy industry
According to the survey from Solar Foundation, the majority of jobs in the solar energy industry have to do with installation. These jobs have a median wage of $25.96 per hour. The residential sector accounts for the largest segment of employment, with 41% of solar jobs being found therein. The commercial sector accounts for 28% of jobs found in the solar energy industry, with utilities accounting for the remainder. The survey suggests that the solar energy industry employs twice as many people as the coal industry and three times that of the wind industry.
Solar remains expensive when compared to natural gas and other forms of power
While the solar energy industry has been growing quickly, it is not without fault. Solar remains relatively expensive when compared to more conventional forms of power. This is partly due to the fact that solar power is labor-intensive, requiring more manpower per megawatt-hour. This high demand for labor makes the installation of solar panels somewhat expensive, which also adds to the overall cost of generating electricity. By comparison, natural gas employs nearly as many people as the solar energy industry, but can produce as much as 50 times more electrical power at a lower cost.
Political challenges could slow the growth of the solar energy industry
The solar energy industry also faces significant political hurdles in the United States. As a whole, the renewable power sector spends much less money when engaging federal lawmakers than the oil and coal industries. Moreover, changes to federal energy policy could show more support for older forms of power, such as coal, despite the economic potential of the solar energy industry.