Solar census indicates booming growth

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Solar job growth easily outpaced that of the overall U.S. economy, expanding by 2.3 percent during the same period, according to 2012 census data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Stellar Energy in Rohnert Park, California

Today, the U.S. has 5,700 megawatts of installed solar energy capacity -- enough to power more than 940,000 households -- and is expected to nearly double over last year, adding 3.2 gigawatts online by the end of 2012 and another 3.9 gigawatts during 2013.

Census participants from more than 1,000 solar companies said strong federal solar policy like the solar investment tax credit is one of the most important factors driving the solar job growth over the past 12 months. Other drivers cited included the continued decline in solar energy prices, the popularity of new third-party system ownership models, and state solar policies, including renewable portfolio standards.

"The solar industry has grown at significantly higher rates than most other industries in the past several years, making it one of the foremost creators of new jobs in the United States," said Andrea Luecke, executive director of the Solar Foundation. "Our census findings indicate that these new jobs are highly skilled in nature, including solar installation, sales, marketing and software development."

To conduct the research the Solar Foundation, BW Research, and Cornell University used the Solar Energy Industry Association's National Solar Database and other data sources (including more than 1,000 solar companies) to refine the methods used in the census and reach more employers. As a result, the previously reported solar employment figure for 2011 was revised from 100,237 to 105,145.

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