Report: Solar Power Biggest and Fastest-Growing Power Generation Employer

By Robert Evatt

A new report from the U.S. Department of Energy indicates workers devoted to solar development, installation and maintenance consist of a full 43 percent of the total electric power generation workforce.

On top of that, solar showed the highest amount of growth from 2015 to 2016, going from 300,192 employees in 2015 to 373,807 employees in 2016.

The report credited the significant buildout of new solar generation capacity. Additionally, solar employers expect to increase their employment by seven percent over the next year.

Though the majority of new solar capacity has been built for utilities or commercial businesses, a slight majority of solar workers install residential projects, due to the relatively low power generation per labor unit.

Taken together, oil, coal and natural gas power generation comprised the second-largest power generation at 22 percent. Those sources also grew, though at a slower rate – 135,898 in 2015 to 151,000 in 2016.

Coal employed the most of all the fossil fuels at 86,035 in 2016, followed by natural gas at 52,125 and oil at 12,840. The previous report did not break out fossil fuels individually.

Wind power was the third-largest power generation segment at 101,738. Wind companies anticipate a growth rate over the next year of just under four percent.

Nearly all power generation segments showed an increase of employment with the exception of geothermal generation, which fell from 7,645 in 2015 to 5,768 in 2016.

The Department of Energy’s report also indicated installation or repair positions were the largest employment segment at 27 percent. Administrative positions employed 23.7 percent, management and professional positions employed 19.6 percent and production and manufacturing positions employed 14.4 percent.

The construction side of power generation reported the greatest difficulty in hiring, due to insufficient qualifications or lack of experience. Utilities reported the least hiring difficulty.

The full report, which was produced with the assistance of BW Research Partnership, can be read here.

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