As the demand for energy is rising across the world, more and more countries are looking into renewable and clean energy sources, such as solar power. Actually, solar energy is the fastest growing segment in the green energy market in this country. For example, energy derived from the sun was the second-biggest source of new electricity generation capacity in 2013. These numbers are only predicted to rise.
Stats in the Solar Industry
The increasing popularity for solar energy doesn’t only benefit the environment, it also has a highly positive impact on the labor market. In 2013 alone, the global solar industry expanded by 100%, amounting to 2.3 million jobs across the world. In the U.S., 143,000 people were employed in the solar industry, which translates into a growth rate of 50% since 2010. With an annual growth rate of 20%, the solar industry is among the fastest growing sectors in this country.
The demand for solar technology has been skyrocketing in the last few years. While the solar capacity amounted to 2,326 megawatts in 2010, it more than quadrupled to 12,057 megawatts in early 2014. Yet, solar energy only makes up 1% of the U.S.’ total energy production, thus having enormous potential to grow even more.
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Solar’s Rise to Popularity
The growth of the solar industry in the U.S. is driven by the government, private corporations, and individual consumers. The Interior Department plans to issue permits for solar projects for 6 million homes by 2020, while the Defense Department is going to build a 20-megawatt solar facility in Arizona that could meet 25% of the electrical demand. The Energy Department announced in April 2014 that it would invest $15 million in solar projects across the country.
Private corporations increasingly install solar arrays and solar systems to power their facilities. Apple’s solar arrays in North Carolina produce 84 million-kilowatt- hours per year, while Google’s solar arrays in Mountain View have a capacity of 1.9 megawatts. Retail chains like Walmart or Kohl’s also started to use solar systems for a number of their branches, which can power up to 30-40% of the stores’ electrical needs.
A growing number of homeowners are incorporating solar energy in their households as well. Solar power company Solar 3D has made $1 million per month this year from residential projects alone. In 2013, California homes achieved a total of 1,000 megawatts of capacity through solar panels installed on rooftops. From 2012 to 2013, almost 50% more photovoltaic systems were installed U.S.-wide.
Why Is the Growth Occurring?
Solar technology is gaining popularity so drastically for several reasons. First of all, the cost for installing this technology has plummeted: solar panels dropped 60% since 2011 and solar photovoltaic systems decreased by 50% since 2010. Moreover, the government offers credits and rebates for those who use solar power. For instance, those who install solar systems for commercial or residential properties can obtain a 30% rebate. This policy is supposed to achieve a total cost of $.06 per kilowatt-hour, and the initiative has already accomplished 60% of its goal.
Where is the Growth Occurring?
Unsurprisingly, solar technology thrives the most in states with ample sunshine, with California leading in all aspects of the solar energy market by a large margin. The top five states by cumulative solar capacity are California, Arizona, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Nevada. The top five states with the most solar growth in 2013 were California, Arizona, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Lastly, the top five states by total number of solar jobs are California, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York.
Getting on Board: Working in the Solar Industry
There is plenty of promising career paths available to those who wish to work in the solar industry. As matter of fact, there are various solar careers for people with different education and experience levels:
1. Basic: Two Years or Less of Educational Experience
- Solar Installation Helper
- Advanced Manufacturing Technician
- CNC Operator
- Advanced Manufacturing Technician
2. Middle: Associates Level
- Solar Thermal Installer
- Solar PV Installer
- HVAC/R Technician with Solar Expertise
- Engineering Technician
- Electrician with Solar Expertise
- Solar Thermal Technician
- Instrumentation and Electronics Technician – Process Control Technician
- Solar PV Technician
3. Advanced: Master Craft or Bachelor’s
- Industrial Engineer
- Mechanical Engineer
- Electrical Engineer
- Solar Installation Contractor
The strong demand for solar technology calls for more well-trained and experienced solar professionals in the upcoming years. If you’re interested in entering this highly promising industry, look up the vocational training programs offered by RSI today!