Thousands of Jobs Lost in U.S. Solar Industry

A new report published on Wednesday shows that the U.S. solar industry lost almost 10,000 jobs last year, with steep losses in already mature markets like California and Massachusetts, where the growth of installation of new panels has drastically slowed.

This is the first time there has been a drop in employment in the new fast growing industry since the non-profit research company The Solar Foundation started to make a statistic on solar jobs in 2010.

The new Solar Foundation report says that nationwide, solar employment fell 3.8 percent to 250,271 jobs in 2017 from a high of 260,077 in 2016. A drop in both utility-scale and residential solar installations, as well as industry jitters about tariffs on imported solar panels, were to blame for the decline.

According to Reuters, U.S. solar installations fell in 2017 after logging a record-breaking year in 2016 as developers raced to take advantage of a federal tax credit that was meant to expire that year. The credit was extended by Congress, but it takes time for companies to rebuild their project pipelines.

Also, the demand for home systems has also dropped considerably in the largest markets in the U.S. like California, Massachusetts, and Nevada, as a result of incentives becoming less lucrative.

However, The Solar Foundation said that overall solar employment is expected to resume growth next year, projecting new employment of more than 263,000 by the end of this year, an increase of 5 percent.

The author of the report, Ed Gilliland, said in an interview that the forecast is based on projections made before President Donald Trump imposed the 30 percent tariffs on imported solar panels last month. Gilliland added that the impact of the tariffs may not be fully felt until 2019.

The tariffs came on the request of the two U.S. solar manufacturers, Suniva and SolarWorld, which said they could not compete with the cheap panels from Asia. The Solar Energy Industries Association trade group stated in response that 78 percent of solar jobs in the U.S. are in installation, sales and project development, and only 15 percent are in manufacturing.

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