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The Coming Golden Age of Solar

March 24, 2021
Austin, TX

Solar businesses will need to expand their workforces to meet increased demand, but hiring professionals with the necessary skills and experience is a persistent problem.

Plans to supercharge the US renewable energy sector are certainly ambitious. Among the measures being proposed is the injection of a massive $400 billion of federal government investment into the clean energy industry.

The idea of the ‘Clean Energy Revolution’ is here and many are on board, though others will still need to be convinced before they buy into it.  

That may be a slow process plagued by doubt and uncertainty, but what is clear is that the renewable industry will grow significantly in the coming years. And leading the way will be the solar sector.

In the coming year, solar will make up the largest share of new electricity generating capacity in the US, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Solar will contribute 39 percent of the new capacity this year, amounting to 15.4GW out of an overall total of 39.7GW.

More than half of the new utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is planned for four states, the EIA figures show. Those states are:

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Meanwhile the EIA also forecasts an additional 4.1 GW of small-scale solar PV capacity to enter service by the end of 2021.

Breaking Records

If the projections are accurate, and a total of 15.4GW of solar capacity is installed, it will be a new record.

But it is likely that that record will be broken pretty quickly – multiple times. Wood Mackenzie has predicted that in 2022 around 23GW of new capacity will be installed, while, in 2023, a massive 25GW will be added.

Simply put, it’s boom time for the solar industry. Coupled with this expansion of solar capacity will be a rise in the number of solar jobs.

Indeed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the role of Solar Photovoltaic Installer will be the fastest growing job in the country during the period 2019 to 2029 – with the number of such roles expected to increase 51% in that timeframe. An important factor here is that solar jobs have been relatively unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic. A report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie concluded that there was increasing evidence that solar installations can be undertaken relatively safely while ensuring compliance with public health guidance.

Finding the People You Need

While creating roles is one thing, finding the right people to fill those roles is another. Will solar businesses get workers with the necessary skills and experience? And equally, once they do find those people, will they be able to retain them?

And the hiring problems for solar employers are not confined to roles such as electricians, construction workers and installation workers, according to The Solar Foundation. Indeed, sales, marketing and customer service jobs in the solar sector – in addition to management and supervisory roles – are even harder to fill. A survey by The Solar Foundation revealed that when solar companies were asked which were the most difficult positions to fill, the most common response (from 31 per cent of survey participants) was “sales, marketing or customer service”.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, during which many people have lost their jobs, the solar industry has still found it difficult to recruit. Yes, solar companies did expand their workforces, sometimes substantially in the last year, but this expansion is not happening fast enough for some.

Train To Gain

Anecdotally, hiring workers with the necessary experience has proved particularly challenging. As one CEO of a California-based solar company puts it:

It's hard. The thing is that the industry is growing. It's very difficult if you're looking to recruit people who are inside the industry. We're having to hire from outside the industry and train.

High-quality hiring agencies help solar businesses tackle this problem by providing training for their workers. This enables solar firms to equip workers with foundational skills that can be easily transferred to other projects. This is one of Workrise’s areas of expertise.

With many businesses needing to upscale their workforces quickly in order to match rising demand, working with a Workforce Management Solution will enable them to do so efficiently by having access to a large US-wide talent pool.

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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