By Rhone Resch
February 24, 2015 at 5:00 am ET
Solar energy continues to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. The latest state-by-state breakdown of solar jobs nationwide not only shows impressive growth – but it also reveals some very encouraging trends. Big gains in employment are no longer limited to solar-friendly California and the sunny Southwest. Employment is also booming in East Coast states, including Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Maryland, while significantly growing in the southern states of Texas, Georgia and Florida.
From coast to coast, solar is having a huge impact on both our economy and environment. Today, the solar industry employs nearly 175,000 Americans and pumps more than $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy – and we’re just scratching the surface of our enormous potential.
Nowhere is this growth more evident than in Nevada, where both Republicans and Democrats have enthusiastically supported pro-growth policies.
According to a new report by The Solar Foundation, Nevada’s solar industry employment grew 146 percent in the past year, allowing it to rise to 7th in number of solar jobs by state and 1st in per-capita solar jobs. This big jump in employment is the result, in part, of efforts by Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Dean Heller and Gov. Rick Sandoval. The state added thousands of solar jobs over the previous year.
“Nevada having the fastest growing solar energy industry did not happen by accident,” said Sen. Reid. “Our progress in the clean energy sector is an example of how federal and state policies and smart public-private partnerships encourage growth and job creation. This is proof that our hard work in Nevada to advance energy policies not only ends our addiction to fossil fuels, but also creates well-paying jobs and brings new, innovative industries to our state. Clean energy is Nevada’s future and there is so much potential for our state to lead the nation in renewable energy development.”
“The announcement that our state is number one in solar job creation is great news. Nevada is rich in potential for alternative sources of energy and these latest rankings prove opportunities truly are limitless,” added Sen. Heller. “The sun shines almost every day in Nevada, and I will continue my work on policies that position our state to harness its solar power potential. Renewable energy development is critical to our state’s and our nation’s long-term all-of-the above energy strategy.”
The 656 megawatts (MW) of solar energy currently installed in Nevada ranks the state 6th in the country in installed solar capacity and is enough to power 100,000 homes. In 2013, $108 million was invested in Nevada to install solar for home, business and utility use. Average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic system prices in Nevada have fallen by 24 percent in the last year.
Sen. Reid, Sen. Heller and Gov. Sandoval should be applauded for their tireless efforts to create new jobs for Nevadans and for their commitments to securing America’s energy future. Time and time again, they have shown that bipartisanship is the best way to benefit both our economy and environment.
Today, the U.S. has an estimated 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity nationwide, enough to effectively power nearly 4 million homes in the United States – or every single home in a state the size of Massachusetts or New Jersey – with another 20 GW in the pipeline for 2015 and 2016, according to SEIA and GTM Research projections. This tremendous growth, including 20 percent more jobs in 2014 than the year before and 50 percent more added solar capacity nationwide, is due largely to smart, successful public policies such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).
The ITC alone has fueled dramatic growth in solar installations. The market certainty provided by a multiple-year extension of the residential and commercial solar ITC has helped annual solar installations grow by more than 70-fold, rocketing from 106 MW to 7,400 MW since the ITC was implemented in 2006 – a compound annual growth rate of 53 percent.
So any way you look at it – from creating jobs to protecting our environment – the ITC is paying huge dividends for America.
Rhone Resch is the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association