The United States installed 252 megawatts of grid-connected photovoltaic power (enough for more than 50,000 homes) in the first quarter of 2011. That made the solar energy industry one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy for that quarter, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. It also puts the industry on track to match last year’s record growth. In 2010, the U.S. solar market more than doubled to reach $6 billion. It is expected to double again in 2011, says SEIA spokesperson Jared Blanton.
The solar industry’s growth brings with it the promise of jobs. More than 100,000 people currently work in the U.S. solar industry, and Blanton says that the SEIA expects 25,000 to 50,000 new jobs to be created this year. Solar jobs are increasing rapidly and employers are having a hard time finding skilled workers, according to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Job Census 2010. The report states that jobs for PV installers, electricians, roofers and sales representatives are expected to grow the most.
However, the report’s data shows that firms across the solar industry spectrum—installation, manufacturing and wholesale trade—seem to be having the most difficulty hiring qualified engineers. “Engineers are one of the most sought-after occupations by employers in the solar power industry,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A basic search using the keywords “electrical engineer solar” on simplyhired.com comes up with close to 2,000 job listings from around the web.
“There are definitely good opportunities for electrical engineers,” says Blanton.
PHOTO: The Solar Foundation
Prachi Patel is a freelance journalist based in Pittsburgh. She writes about energy, biotechnology, materials science, nanotechnology, and computing.