2016 record-breaking year for U.S. solar market, jobs

By Autumn Long on February 27, 2017

A group of installers wave to the cameraThe American solar market continues to break records. Last year was the industry’s biggest year ever, with 14,626 megawatts of solar PV capacity installed. This represents a nearly 95% increase over 2015’s record 7,490 megawatts. The U.S. is now home to more than 1.3 million solar PV installations, with a cumulative capacity topping 40 gigawatts.

In another first, solar now ranks No. 1 among sources of new U.S. electric generating capacity. Thirty-nine percent of all generating capacity additions last year came from solar, surpassing natural gas and wind at 29% and 26%, respectively.

Such explosive growth adds up to lots of new jobs. According to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, U.S. solar employment in the United States grew by 25% last year. Moreover, solar jobs have increased by at least 20% in each of the past four years. In 2016, the solar industry created one out of every 50 new jobs in the nation – in other words, 2% of all new American jobs came from solar.

The U.S. solar industry now employs more than 260,000 workers, making it the largest employer in the electric power generation sector nationwide. Right here in West Virginia solar is growing as well. Nearly 400 West Virginians now work in the industry.