Wisconsin, not known as the sunniest place this side of Arizona, ranks 5th for total solar energy sector jobs, as determined by the annual National Solar Jobs Census report. The census found that 2,885 solar jobs at contractors installing solar panels, wholesalers, and manufacturers in Wisconsin. Wisconsin trails only California, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Michigan in this census.
The census was conducted by The Solar Foundation and Green LMI Consulting with technical assistance from Cornell University.
The census is also forecasting job growth 250 jobs, or 9%, in 2011 for Wisconsin solar employers. “Over the next 12 months, over 50% of solar firms expect to add jobs, while only 2% expect to cut workers,” the report said.
“This is the first time anyone has tried to quantify solar jobs along the entire value chain by speaking directly with employers or projected with any certainty solar job growth over the next 12 months,” said Andrea Luecke, acting executive director of The Solar Foundation. “The fact that a national census is needed to examine the size and nature of the workforce signals that the solar industry is having a substantial and positive impact on the U.S. Economy.”
“At a time when many companies and whole sectors were slowing down, this report shows that the solar industries really came off the bench to deliver a slam dunk for our economy and our environment,” said Scott Thompso of Wisconsin Environment. “This growth was made possible by leadership and hard work of Wisconsin officials. We look forward to working with our elected officials to make solar a centerpiece of our state’s energy policy and to accelerate the environmental and economic benefits Wisconsin gets from solar.”
Growth in solar jobs in Wisconsin can be attributed to a number of factors. First, Wisconsin has the highest number of workers per capita in manufacturing, and with a variety of these businesses producing components utilized in solar in some way (glass, mounting brackets, etc). Second, the Wisconsin Focus on Energy program offers attractive incentives for solar installations, with many utilities as well as the Federal government adding to. Third, Wisconsin has a 10% renewable energy portfolio standard, which requires utilities to achieve 10% of their energy generation and purchasing from renewable sources, which partially drives utilities to either install solar or to create incentives for customers.
Wisconsin policy makers and businesses have recognized that renewable energy and efficiency is a growth sector in the economy for the long term, in addition to providing products that reduce overall environmental impact. Municipalities have gotten into the act in recent years, with both Madison and Milwaukee designated as U.S. DOE “Solar Cities“, which provides federal funding aid for these cities to add solar capacity and work with consumers to expand their use. Other cities, such as Whitewater, and many others, are installing solar capacity on public buildings to raise awareness and reduce long-term energy costs.