Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Top States for Solar Jobs

Michigan has the fourth-largest number of solar energy jobs in the country, according to a report released today by the Solar Foundation.

As of August, 6,300 workers in the state were spending at least half of their time designing, manufacturing, selling, installing or maintaining solar energy systems, the National Solar Jobs Census found. Only California, Pennsylvania and Texas had more workers employed in this booming sector.

On the flip side, Michigan has only 76 solar energy businesses, far fewer than many other leading states in the industry. Many of Michigan's solar jobs are generated by two large companies, Hemlock Semiconductor Group in Hemlock and United Solar in Rochester Hills.

Jennifer Alvarado, executive director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association in Dimondale, said that Michigan's high ranking in the census reflects the state's numerous efforts to become a leader in renewable energy. She has seen an increase in solar system installations in Michigan this year.

Nationwide, 93,000 Americans are working in solar energy, according to the census. The Solar Foundation, a research and education organization, teamed up with Green LMI Consulting, Cornell University and others to produce the report, which attempts to quantify for the first time U.S. solar industry employment.

Despite the poor job market, solar companies are experiencing difficulties finding qualified workers, according to the census. Over the next year, the solar jobs most in demand are expected to be: solar panel installers, electricians and roofers with experience in solar installations and salespeople for solar equipment and installations.

The job numbers come amid predictions of 2010 being a record year for solar installations and manufacturing. The U.S. solar electric market is on track to install for the first time more than one gigawatt of capacity in a year -- which is enough to power 200,000 homes, the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research said in a report released Tuesday.


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