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Individuals with technical and hands-on experience in the energy sector are in high demand in the 2020s. Solar energy, along with other renewable power sources, have taken off globally in the past decade, with growth rates averaging 42% per annum; the result of a combination of government targets, corporate commitments, American focus on conservation and consumer environmentalism combined. Reports as of late 2021 have predicted a 95% clean energy-dominant economy – a world in which renewables are the norm – by 2026, worldwide.  

In the U.S., these efforts to mitigate the changing climate translate to a new influx of jobs supporting an emerging (and ever-expanding) industry. 

Photo courtesy of First Solar

Today in America, there are over 250,000 people working in the field of solar energy. According to the Office of Energy & Renewable Energy, these solar jobs have gone up 167% in the past ten years.

The government office calls solar a “proven incubator for job growth throughout the nation,” via a statement published online. 

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Gomez Angel

Solar energy was once fairly taboo, and to many, financially challenging. Photovoltaic panels, the recognizable sun-capturing sheets that sit atop an increasing number of roofs across the country, used to be high in cost and low in frequency. However, prices of solar panels have dropped 70% in recent years, meaning more Americans are turning to install solar energy methods (and the tax credits it provides), which is, in turn, ticking up the need for skilled technicians, installers, and manufacturers in this field.

Roles in the burgeoning industry usually fall into the primary categories of manufacturers or installers – both of which are job markets ripe for transferable skills from other manufacturing or energy operations occupations. 

Manufacturing roles, the mainly factory-centric jobs focused on producing the items included within panels and the solar cells themselves, have risen in numbers in their own right. Largely, this is due to the numerous expansions for photovoltaic manufacturing facilities popping up across the country. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, manufacturing jobs are the second largest job category in solar with over 31,000 jobs in 2020. 

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Bezanger

Out-ranking solar manufacturing roles are those of installers – the individuals responsible for securing and connecting the panels themselves. Frequently done on roofs of homes or other large structures, these types of jobs require knowledge of schematic and site assessment criteria, in addition to physical labor, making them highly specialized but with plenty of room for transferable skills for those who have previously held installation roles. Clocking in with nearly 155,000 of the roughly 250,000 solar jobs in the country (as of 2020), this job category is over five times that of manufacturing. Business Insider has estimated a 50.5% growth in photovoltaic installer roles through 2029.

Other important clean energy jobs include sales and marketing, operations and operational assistance, as well as a plethora of administrative roles. Solar is quickly rising as a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels, with small and large companies all across the country offering a bright new path for job seekers.

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