Solar energy jobs on the rise in U.S.

Solar JobsA new report shows that job growth in the solar energy industry is booming.

In November 2015, the industry employed 209,000 people, according to figures released in the “National Solar Jobs Census 2015,” compiled by the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit. In 2015, 35,000 solar jobs were added, which marked 20 percent growth compared to 2014, CNNMoney reported. Over five years, the number of solar jobs more than doubled.

The solar energy industry encompasses a variety of positions, from designers and installers to salespeople. With the job gains, the solar industry now employs more people than oil and gas construction does, according to CNNMoney. The solar workforce also has 77 percent more employees than the coal mining sector.

Growth factors
CNNMoney attributed the job gains to recent environmental regulations, including a new mandate by the Environmental Protection Agency that requires states to reduce their carbon footprints and measures established at the climate change talks in Paris in December. In addition, the source noted that Congress renewed a measure in December that allows home- and business owners to receive a 30 percent tax credit for installing solar panels.

In terms of solar employment, 63 percent is in the residential sector, 22 percent is in utilities and 15 percent is commercial, reported GreenBiz. However, the source noted that shifts in these figures are predicted.

Employment issues
Hourly wages for solar energy system installers rose 5 percent over the year to reach an average pay of $21 per hour, which the source reported is double the average wage in the U.S.

However, GreenBiz noted that solar employers are facing some challenges to recruiting new workers. Some 26 percent of solar companies experienced difficulties finding qualified talent in 2015, up from 19 percent the previous year. For sales positions in the solar industry, 23 percent of companies reported difficulties finding new talent, a rise from the 20 percent reported in 2014.

Despite these growing pains, many industry professionals consider solar careers attractive for the high wages, booming growth and large potential. CNN spoke to Todd Valdez, who started his own solar company, Sunkey Energy, after attending Ecotech Institute. He told the source that the volume of solar power his company installed grew three times in size from 2014 to 2015.

“Our workload has definitely been rising tremendously,” said Valdez in an interview with CNNMoney, calling the solar energy industry “a good place to go now if you’re looking for a career change.”

The most solar energy jobs were found in California, followed by Massachusetts, according to the source