A Bright Future for Engineers in Solar Energy Storage
A discussion paper released by the Solar Foundation during the Intersolar North America conference has shed some light on the state of the solar energy and energy storage markets, based on information from their 2015 census report.
Growth in these markets will be a boon for engineers in the energy and utilities industries, offering a wider range of career options not only in solar manufacturing, research and development, but also in the solar energy storage industry. Related employment opportunities will also rise for engineers in civil and infrastructure roles.
The paper predicts an increase in these job markets, with 27,000 solar and storage related jobs available by 2021, including 9,000 storage installation jobs for the solar industry and 18,000 solar installation jobs – jobs that require the existence of a solar storage market.
The paper also included information on labor efficiencies in the solar storage market, noting that utility-scale solar is the most labor efficient – how many people are required to install a specific amount of solar capacity.
“In the next few years, storage will be hitting the mainstream in a big way,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “Storage technologies are making solar energy even more reliable, while increasing its appeal among consumers. Our preliminary research has found that storage will also have a significant economic impact, creating tens of thousands of new, high-quality solar jobs within the next five years.”
The paper also raised several questions on policy impacts, in an effort to guide where further research is needed.
The paper attributes the increase in job market to declining costs of technology and policy improvements, similar to how photovoltaic technology saw growth a few years ago. These improvements will lead to job growth in all sectors: utility-scale, residential and commercial.
Other highlights from the 2015 National Solar Jobs Census include:
- Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total employment in the solar industry increase by 14.7 percent to 239,625 solar workers.
- One out of every 83 new jobs created in the U.S. since Census 2014 was created by the solar industry – representing 1.2 percent of all new jobs.
- Wages paid to solar workers remain competitive with similar industries and provide many living-wage opportunities.
- With 119,931 solar workers, the installation sector remains the single largest solar employment sector. The installation sector grew by almost 24 percent since November 2014 and by 173 percent since 2010.
- Women in solar jobs increased by 2 percent and now represent 24 percent of the solar workforce.