Solar Jobs Report Shows More Growth In Wisconsin

Most Other States Gain, Too

Solar panels
Tomohiro Ohsumi/AP Photo

A national study shows jobs in the solar power industry are increasing in most states – including Wisconsin.

The annual jobs census by The Solar Foundation, a non-profit based in Washington D.C., found the solar industry employed more than 2,800 people in Wisconsin last year. That’s a 45 percent increase from 2015. The jobs are in manufacturing, installation, sales and related duties. Andrea Luecke, Solar Foundation president and executive director, said Wisconsin “crushed expectations.”

“We’re seeing it everywhere, among local governments in Madison and Milwaukee. They both have group purchasing to help people take advantage of lower costs through economies of scale,” she said. “Also, many rural electric cooperatives are getting involved in a big way.”

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Luecke said dropping prices for solar panels and tax credit programs continue to help fuel the growth in solar. Despite Wisconsin’s increase in solar employment, the report shows Wisconsin remains in the middle of the pack among states, for both the number of solar jobs and in solar jobs per capita.

Luecke, a Wisconsin native, says if state government would create incentives to add more solar, there would a payoff for workers.

“The vast majority of these solar jobs do pay well. They pay better than the national average,” she said. “Many positions have a low education barrier to entry, meaning you don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.”

So, far, Gov. Scott Walker has opposed increasing Wisconsin’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, the state’s goal for the percentage of electricity from renewable sources, like solar.

Luecke says she remains hopeful that the Trump administration will recognize the solar industry contributes to America’s competitiveness and local economic growth.