The number of solar energy jobs doubled in the United States in the past five years. There are now more people working in solar than on oil rigs and in gas fields.
The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., released new figures this week showing that the solar industry added 35,000 jobs in 2015, up 20 percent from the year before. CNN Money reports that, in contrast, oil and gas companies slashed almost 17,000 extraction jobs in the same year.
Oil prices are down by 70 percent in the last 18 months, hovering just above $30 a barrel. The price is the lowest in 12 years. According to the Huffington Post, 90 percent of the industry’s 209,000 workers only work on solar-related projects.
Solar energy jobs include solar panel installers, designers, engineers, sales folks, and managers. Chris Gorrie, campus president of the Ecotech Institute, stated, “The companies we’re working with are begging to fill the [job] slots they have because they’re growing so much.”
The solar industry boom can be attributed to a few things, namely the improvement of the technology. The industry continues to grow as the technology becomes cheaper, making it more affordable for the average household. The Solar Foundation’s report shows that the price of installed solar panels continue to drop.
However, the one place where solar energy jobs don’t outweigh oil and gas is the pay. The report shows that solar installers get $21 per hour on average and sales and design jobs see pay rates of $28.85 and $26.92 respectively.
In contrast, oil and gas workers get an average of $44 an hour. The oil and gas industries require geoscientists and engineers for extraction and their pay rates are $65 to $75 an hour, pushing up the rate for the rest of the industry. In contrast, refinery operators typically make $29 an hour and day laborers like roustabouts make about $17 an hour.
The surge in solar energy jobs can also be attributed to a 30 percent tax credit businesses an homeowners can receive if they install solar panels on their property. With the passing of the climate change agreement in Paris, the solar energy industry will likely continue to grow.