Solar jobs should grow, but maybe not in Wisconsin
From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The solar sector is expanding nationwide, a new report out Monday found, but a renewable energy advocate warned that Wisconsin could see a pullback in solar projects and growth next year.
“Our report shows that there are over 100,000 solar jobs at over 17,000 employment sites nationwide, and despite an extremely sluggish economy, the solar industry is creating jobs nearly 10 times faster than everyone else,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation in Washington, D.C., and former director of the Milwaukee Shines program.
The solar industry’s job growth has been 6.8% over the past year, at a time when the economy was growing by less than 1%.
The solar jobs census also found that solar employers expect to increase the number of solar workers by 24%, representing nearly 24,000 net new jobs by August 2012. Over the next 12 months, nearly half of solar firms expect to add jobs.
Milwaukee is seeing job growth from solar components manufacturing – including the panel factory Helios USA, which opened this year, and the Ingeteam factory that will soon being producing solar inverters.
But the picture for installations isn’t as bright for next year in Wisconsin, despite incentive programs launched in Milwaukee and Madison. There is a flurry of activity this year, but 2012 activity could “fall off the cliff,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of Renew Wisconsin.
Setbacks for solar projects include the suspension of funding incentives for nonresidential solar by the Focus on Energy program, as well as the cancellation of a program by We Energies that provided incentives for renewable projects.
“There are still a few projects in the pipeline and the second half of this year will be a good one for the industry and installation contractors – as long as they don’t pay any attention to the cliff, the abyss, that’s in store for them this January,” Vickerman said.