In a recent report from IREA, 2016 saw employment within the solar energy field spiking 17 times as fast as the economy of the United States. In total, more than a quarter billion people work for the solar industry, an increase of nearly 25 percent from 2015’s statistics. This boom in the solar industry can be attributed to reducing costs and recently-renewed federal tax credits that make it easy for homeowners and businesses to install panels. While growth in renewable energy has slightly slowed in Japan and Europe, IRA expects global employment in the renewable energies will reach 24 million by 2030.
Bryan Birsic, CEO of Wunder Capital, a company that finances the installation of solar panels, remarked that solar is one of the few remaining high-pay jobs for blue-collar workers that have no knowledge of computer coding. Birsic added that solar is labor-intensive due to the relative ease of acquiring sunlight; costs can be focused on paying workers to install, produce and sell panels. While most solar jobs are in installation, every facet of the industry is seeing various gains. While men hold most of solar’s jobs, women are growing in prevalence; 28% of the solar industry consists of women.
Growing awareness of climate change and its effects on the planet have also played a factor in this solar boom. Elon Musk has contributed by having his company, Tesla, offer solar roofs comprised of shingles; the solar shingles are intended to diminish the aesthetic complaints of normal panels while providing the same energy output to homes. The wind industry has also seen an employment rise of 28 percent, with nearly one-fourth of its 102,000 jobs occupied by manufacturers.
While the solar and wind industries have continued to improve and strengthen, especially as solar energy’s production cost has halved in the last five years, the coal industry is spiraling into trouble. Nearly half of all US coal jobs have vanished since 2011; Kentucky has lost more than 60 percent. In an effort to appease the people who voted him into power, the 45th president has signed orders to bust regulatory issues that affect the coal industry. Despite Trump’s efforts, the coal industry will likely continue to falter due to the availability of cheap natural gas.