Regardless of what one fossil fuel-loving president might like, renewable energy is flourishing in the United States. A new survey from nonprofit The Solar Foundation reveals there are more than twice as many workers employed in the solar industry as there are in coal. The solar industry employs over 260,000 people, and pays a median wage of $25.96 an hour.
In 2016, the solar industry created one out of every 50 jobs added, according to The Solar Foundation’s findings. These solar jobs can be found in all 50 states. Employers the foundation surveyed said they anticipate a 10 percent employment increase in the next 12 months. The industry employs 28 percent women, 17 percent Latino or Hispanic, and seven percent African American. Also, there are seven percent veterans in the overall United States workforce, compared to nine percent in solar jobs.
According to the report, even though solar accounts for just 1.3 percent of America’s electricity, “Solar employs slightly more workers than natural gas, over twice as many as coal, over three times that of wind energy, and almost five times the number employed in nuclear energy. Only oil/petroleum has more employment (by 38 percent) than solar.”
But Vox points out in order for solar to overtake polluting energy sources, it needs to be cheap. Right now solar requires more manpower per megawatt-hour than any other form of power. For the industry to bring costs down, they’ll likely need to automate some jobs, and won’t require as many human workers.
On the other hand, solar may need to employ lots of people initially to gain political clout. Vox cites information from the Center for Responsive Politics, which reveals renewable companies spend far less on lobbying than oil and gas companies. But if an industry creates jobs – as solar does – it may garner more influence. For example, even some Republicans now defend wind and solar production tax credits, as wind energy is a noteworthy source of jobs in states like Ohio and Iowa. Trump can wipe any mention of solar from his White House energy page for now, but should solar and other renewable energy industries keep on adding jobs, he may just have to pay more attention.