BUSINESS

California solar industry job growth reaches record levels

California led a record-breaking year for solar power in 2015 that included the addition of more than 20,000 new jobs within the state -- more than half of the positions the industry created nationwide, according to a new report.

The California Solar Jobs Census report released Wednesday found that roughly one out of three employees in the solar industry works in California.

By the end of 2015, that total number of solar workers in the state exceeded 75,000. That's more than all jobs held at state's five largest utility companies combined, according to the California Solar Energy Industries Assn.

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“Solar power is a bright spot in California’s economy, bringing jobs and economic development to every corner of the state,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the solar association. “While conventional energy industries are losing jobs, we are seeing record growth, and bringing clean air and climate solutions along the way.”

Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the Solar Foundation, which produced the report, said the 20,000 new jobs in California "marks an industry milestone."

Nationwide, the total number of solar industry jobs increased by more than 35,000 as of November to a total of almost 209,000 workers.

“Our data since 2012 show that half the states in the country have at least doubled their solar workforce,” Luecke said.

The jump in jobs was driven by record growth in solar installations. U.S. solar capacity jumped by 7,400 megawatts, enough to power roughly 1.4 million homes. That was nearly 20% more growth than in 2014. Total U.S. solar capacity reached 27.5 gigawatts, which has the generation potential of about 54 coal-fired power plants.

California continued its growth in installations but the pace slipped downward slightly from 2014 to 2015. Still, the 3,000 megawatts of solar installed in California was more than the next six largest 2015 solar markets combined.

For more energy news, follow Ivan Penn on Twitter: @ivanlpenn.

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