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Solar Industry Growth

Fueled by falling solar panel prices, job growth in the U.S. solar industry will outpace employment in wind energy, according to a new report issued by CleanEdison Inc.

Wind energy is facing the expiration of federal wind credits at the end of the year, which has contributed to the rise in solar industry employment, along with diminishing confidence in the wind industry—making the wind industry weaker.

CleanEdison expects around 36,000 people will be certified as technical employees in the U.S. solar industry in 2020, including the incredibly important position of installer. If these estimates are correct, then there will be a 24 percent increase in employment based on 2010 numbers. Compared to wind industry jobs, which are expected to grow 14 percent to 27,700, this is a significant increase.

There is a strong likelihood, and almost an expectation, for jobs in the solar industry to be filled by underemployed skilled workers, who already know the mechanics and technology and will require training, to be the first to fill the demand during the increase in solar industry employment. Further, structural steel companies and people looking for labor-intensive jobs will be joining the solar energy foray.

However, the rise in the solar industry comes at a price, which is the fall in the wind industry.

Despite the wind industry being expected to grow over the next decade, it is not expected to keep pace with the solar industry, and is already experiencing short-term contraction. According to the American Wind Energy Association, there have been 3,000 U.S. wind employees fired this year, mainly in manufacturing.

The demand for turbines has slowed before the federal tax credit expiration at the end of the year, and inaction on extending the tax credit hasn’t helped curb the anxiety surrounding the industry.

Additionally, job seekers are shifting their efforts from wind to solar, contributing to the fall of the wind industry.

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