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Report ranks Hawaii 5th in nation in solar jobs per capita

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2019
                                Marco Bernard puts into place one of the 33 solar panels on the roof of a solar electricity customer’s garage.

    STAR-ADVERTISER / 2019

    Marco Bernard puts into place one of the 33 solar panels on the roof of a solar electricity customer’s garage.

Hawaii ranks fifth in the nation for solar jobs per capita, and 16th for overall installed solar capacity, but is still close to bottom in solar job growth.

The recently released National Solar Jobs Census 2020 found that one out of every 617 jobs in the state is a solar job, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, The Solar Foundation and Interstate Renewable Energy Council, which earned it the No. 5 spot for solar jobs per capita.

Also, the state’s installed solar capacity of 1,413.2 megawatts gives it the No. 16 rank, and its 2,365 solar jobs gives it the No. 28 rank in the nation.

“It’s sort of a good news, bad news scenario,” said Rocky Mould, executive director of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association. “On the one hand, for our per capita, solar jobs is really high and it shows how resilient the industry has been here, and how beneficial solar energy is with the environment here. We have abundant sunshine and an abundant solar resource.”

On the other hand, he said Hawaii has ranked low in job growth for the past few years, meaning there is still plenty of room for improvement.

From 2012 to 2020, Hawaii experienced a 48% increase on solar job growth, giving it a No. 44 rank The state has added 765 solar jobs since 2012, ranking it 28th in the nation.

Nationally, the U.S. solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020, a 6.7% drop from 2019, its lowest level since 2015. The pandemic was largely responsible for a job decline across all labor categories and in most states.

The lockdowns that began in March 2020 in major solar markets put a halt to most residential and commercial installations, leading to layoffs and furloughs.

But as more people worked from home, using more electricity, demand for solar also grew, which allowed companies to rehire.

Also, while the solar industry is on a trajectory to reach 400,000 solar jobs by 2030, the census found, employment will need to exceed 900,000 workers by 2035 to reach the 100% clean electricity goal set by President Joe Biden.

“While this is an industry with a lot of potential,” said Mould, “we need to take advantage of that potential and invest in solar to get there. It just shows how important solar jobs are going to be as we dig out of the pandemic and respond to climate change.”

Solar jobs are well-paying jobs that can diversify the state’s economy, he said.

According to the 2020 Solar Jobs Census report, solar installers make similar amounts to their peers in the roofing industry, and solar electricians make more than the average electrician.

Nationwide, California ranked No. 1 in solar jobs, with a total of 68,677, and with one out of every 576 jobs being a solar job, ranked No. 3 in jobs per capita. California also ranked No. 1 in total installed solar capacity, with 31,288 MW.

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