One-third of all people who work in solar live in California, according to an annual survey released today.
We agree that solar has become a mainstream because solar is economically advantageous not only for individual consumers, but also for the nation as a whole. The steady rise in demand for solar power has resulted in more work for solar installation companies based here. The United States installed 832 megawatts in the second quarter of 2013, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2nd Quarter 2013, report published by SEIA and GTM Research. This figure represents a 15 percent growth over the first quarter of the year, according to the report.
In the State of the Union Address, President Obama noted that renewable energy jobs put American to work and that those jobs cannot be outsourced. At the same time solar installations and other renewable energy technologies positively impact our long-term environmental future, energy policy and dependency on foreign oil. This is consistent with the finding from the SF Chronicle that the majority of California solar jobs focus on panel installation and financing versus research and development efforts to create new technologies. But there are growing number of American jobs in manufacturing solar technologies.
Installation companies can help the solar economy by making the decision to source American-made solar products, and drive the grown of solar panel and solar equipment manufacturers based in the United States. One example is SolarWorld, an American manufacturer producing only the highest quality high-efficiency crystalline silicon PV solar cells and high-power solar modules right in America. The company has partnered with PetersenDean on the Solar4America campaign that aims to make solar affordable for everyone while reinvesting in America.
“SolarWorld has manufactured the highest quality, American-made solar panels for U.S. homes and businesses for more than 35 years. From our factory in Hillsboro, Ore., our American workforce delivers technology, performance, service and an environmental track record that lead the solar industry. That’s why we have partnered with Petersen Dean, a company that has set the gold standard in solar and roofing installation since 1984 and that proudly supports American manufacturing.” said Mukesh Dulani, President, SolarWorld.
It’s expected that the prices of solar will continue to fall in the years to come. Photovoltaic manufacturing in the United States may also increase significantly in the coming years as technological innovations come about that will level the playing field with China. According to a recent study by researchers at MIT and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), China’s lower PV prices are not due to cheap labor, as had been commonly believed, but are actually attributable to economies of scale and well-developed supply chains.
The study’s researchers estimated costs for labor, overhead, equipment and materials involved in the PV manufacturing process, which made for a rigorous analysis. Their findings concluded that PV factories in China are typically four times larger than those in America, leading to economies of scale that include using manufacturing equipment more efficiently and negotiating better contracts with suppliers. As such, China is currently able to make solar panels for around 23 percent less than the United States. But China’s price advantage “can be replicated elsewhere, if the right conditions are met,” said Tonio Buonassisi, co-author of the report and an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. And with improvements continuing to occur in every step of the PV manufacturing process, it is only a matter of time before the United States secures a bigger share of solar-panel production worldwide, which is currently dominated by China.
An increase in American solar installations and American manufacturing means the creation of more jobs in America, which will benefit local economies and the U.S. as a whole.