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How the Energy Storage Boom Makes Hiring Solar Workers Harder

May 19, 2021
Austin, TX

The rapid expansion of the US energy storage market means solar businesses will find it even more difficult to recruit skilled labor – investing in training will help your business limit the impact.

Finding skilled workers is tough for solar businesses at the best of times, but it is about to become even more challenging.

Why? Because of the booming US energy storage market.

The market for energy storage – which involves capturing excess energy, often using batteries, for use at a later time – is set to rocket in the coming years.

Research published by Wood Mackenzie revealed that between 2019 and 2024, the annual value of the US storage market would rise a massive 737 per cent from $645 million to almost $5.4 billion.

Demand for Skilled Labor Rising

So why does this impact on solar? Energy storage will increasingly be paired with solar capacity rather than being operated as a standalone source of energy. Indeed, it is estimated that, by 2023, a total of 20 per cent of all commercial solar capacity will have storage attached.

Consequently, solar is likely to grow in tandem with the growth of energy storage.

To illustrate the point, according to research conducted by The Solar Foundation, solar installation companies reported that about 16,000 jobs, or 10% of the total at installation companies, focused on battery storage. Separately, within firms where battery storage is the primary focus, there were 14,638 jobs directly linked to solar.

The challenge is clear – as the energy storage market expands, so will the demand for skilled solar workers.

Skilled Labor Force in Decline

It’s tough enough already for solar companies to find skilled workers, even before you factor in the rapidly expanding energy storage market, which will be competing for the same labor pool.

A solar skills gap exists and growth in the energy storage sector is sure to make the problem worse.

To illustrate the shortage of skilled labor in the solar sector, consider this: while the solar industry in the US has seen an average annual growth rate of 49 percent in the last decade, the number of solar workers declined by 3.2% in 2018.

The declining supply of skilled workers is a major problem for the solar industry.

Why is this happening? Because large numbers of baby boomers – the demographic that dominates the skilled labor pool – are leaving the construction, manufacturing and engineering sectors, and the solar industry is not immune to this effect.

The drain of baby boomers is demonstrated by the fact that the median age of the US construction workforce is now 42, statistics show, but back in 1985, it was only 36, according to data.


Median Age - 2021

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Median Age - 1985

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Hiring Troubles

Hiring is a huge challenge for solar companies. The extent of the problem was made clear by the results of a survey conducted by The Solar Foundation, which showed that 83% of solar firms found it difficult to find qualified applicants.

It can also be difficult to cope with the unpredictability of labor demand. Consequently, planning for future projects can be challenging for solar businesses.

Employment trends can be influenced by the prevailing economic conditions, as well as access to capital and major policy shifts at federal and state level.

Take the example of the introduction of the Section 201 tariffs, which were imposed on solar modules and cells in February 2018. In early 2017, when the trade petition was pending, developers delayed many utility-scale projects due to uncertainty, supply shortages, and increasing module prices.

Ultimately, the delays meant less installed capacity than had been anticipated in 2018 and a corresponding loss in jobs.

The unpredictability of the solar labor market was further evidenced in 2019. In that year, according to The Solar Foundation, solar firms predicted 7% job growth in 2019, much higher than the 2.3% growth that actually occurred.

Training is the Answer

Given the unpredictability of demand, solar companies need a hiring agency that can find qualified workers, train them and certify them.

It’s also important that the hiring agency can perform such services quickly.

Helping solar industry companies to quickly upscale their workforce is Workrise’s speciality.

If your business is facing this challenge, working with a specialized hiring agency will give you the opportunity to grow your workforce by having access to a large nationwide talent pool.

A high-quality hiring agency will also enable you to provide training for your workers. This will give your business the opportunity to equip workers with foundational skills that can be easily transferred to other projects.

This will be vital to the success of your business as the rapid growth of the energy storage market has the effect of intensifying competition for skilled labor.

Talk to us: Workrise can help with staffing, technology, training, and professional services – so you can get back to focusing on what you do best. Visit our website at workrise.dev.

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