U.S. solar jobs grew nearly 22% in 2014

The U.S. solar industry added 31,000 jobs in 2014, bringing total number of jobs in the sector to 173,807

U.S. solar industry jobs grew 21.8% in 2014 as the price of panels continued to fall and demand increased, according to a new report issued Thursday.

The solar industry added 31,000 jobs from November 2013 through October 2014, bringing the total number of jobs to 173,807, according to a report from the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit research group.

Jobs in the the solar sector have jumped 86% since 2010 and employment is expected to continue to rise in 2015 and 2016, although an expiring tax credit may stunt growth, according to the report.

"Products are getting better and cheaper as manufacturers are beginning to produce at scale," said Andrea Luecke, president of the Solar Foundation. "It looks really good for the next couple of years."

Los Angeles solar provider American Solar Direct has felt the surge in solar demand. The company started with fewer than 10 employees crammed into a Westside condominium in 2009 and now employs 400 people throughout California.

Olive Martinez, 37, was hired full time in 2014 as a sales manager at the company's San Diego office after working in real estate and pharmaceutical sales.

"I worked in a lot of unstable industries," she said. "It has been a great change."

About 55% of solar jobs are in the installation sector, 18% are in manufacturing and 11% are in sales, according to the report.

The report defines a solar employee as a worker who spends at least 50% of his or her time on solar-related work. About 90% of workers in the survey spent all of their time on solar work.

Although solar jobs are expected to grow in the immediate future, hiring is likely to be hampered when a federal tax credit expires at the end of 2016, according to the report.

About 62% of installation firms said they would lay off workers once the 30% federal investment tax credit expires and reverts to 10% in 2017.

"We can reasonably expect that there will be some job losses then," she said.

The report did not break down job numbers by state, but in 2013, California claimed 47,223 of the country's 142,700 solar workers.

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