Well, it seems since the release of my book Green Is Good things have really been moving in the clean energy industry! No -- I'm not speaking about the reelection of President Obama. Nor am I even referencing the reemergence of climate change in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
I'm talking about The Solar Foundation's recently released third annual National Solar Jobs Census. Indeed, the Census has found that the U.S. solar industry now employs 119,016 Americans. That's an increase of 13,872 workers and a 13.2 percent employment growth rate over the previous year's total.
And local solar installers are leading the way in job growth, employing 57,177 Americans as of September 2012, which represents a 17.5 percent increase during that 12-month period. Installation remained the largest employer in the U.S. solar industry, which is a positive for our economy. These are highly skilled jobs that pay well and, best of all, cannot be outsourced. Jobs in sales and distribution, project development, research and development and finance also grew in the past year.
These numbers are all the more impressive when one considers the attempts during the presidential campaign to malign solar energy. Indeed, those opposed to clean, renewable energy threw all they could at solar, spending $153 million on TV ads criticizing clean energy.
And yet, the U.S. solar industry couldn't be knocked out. That's evident because nearly half of the more than 1,000 companies surveyed in the Census expressed strong optimism for future solar employment growth. Overall, companies reported that they anticipate 17.2 percent employment growth over the next 12 months. If those predictions come true, that represents an addition of 20,000 new solar workers. Mind you, if past is prologue, these growth predictions may be overestimates. However, they are a good predictor that the solar industry will continue growing and creating jobs.
The solar industry's growth is impressive when it stands alone. But what truly makes it a champion is when you compare it with other industries.
While solar jobs grew by 13.2 percent between August 2011 and September 2012, employment in the overall economy grew at a rate of only 2.3 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the fossil fuel electric generation industry actually lost jobs -- shedding 3,857 workers, or 3.77 percent of its workforce according to EMSI. If you look back to 2010, employment in the U.S. solar industry has grown 27 percent -- eight times faster than the overall economy during the same period, in which, employment grew by 3.2 percent.
As I say in my book -- green IS good. But I think what we realizing with this jobs Census, is that green is REALLY good. And solar is doing just great!
Brian F. Keane is president of SmartPower and author of Green Is Good: Save Money, Make Money and Help Your Community Profit From Clean Energy.