Solar jobs in Pennsylvania lag behind national figures

Energy from the sun is a source of U.S. jobs, except in the Keystone state

Credit: Henry Rowan

Credit: Henry Rowan

Power Source

By Daniel Moore

Supporters of solar energy have plenty to cheer about following a recent report on employment in the U.S. solar industry.

In 2014, the industry added 31,000 solar jobs to bring employment to an all-time high of 173,807 nationwide, according to an annual census conducted by The Solar Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based solar research nonprofit. That’s an increase of nearly 22 percent from 2013 and 86 percent from four years ago.

In Pennsylvania, the tune is starkly different.

The solar sector in Pennsylvania has shed 30 percent of its workforce since 2012, when the state ranked fifth in the country with 4,000 jobs, according to the foundation. Pennsylvania’s 2,800 jobs in 2014 placed it at 15th in the country and, when looked at as a percentage of the state’s working population, the state dropped to 37th.

“It’s been challenging,” said Ron Celentano, president of the Pennsylvania Solar Energy Industries Association, referring to the industry as well as his solar contracting and consulting business.

Solar projects that create both direct and ancillary jobs have cropped up in the vast deserts of Arizona and California. But, more frustratingly for solar advocates in Pennsylvania, projects are also going to neighboring states like New Jersey and New York.

Factors in the shift include a Pennsylvania rebate program that vanished, a federal tax credit that is scheduled to wane and the fact that the state’s market for renewable energy credits — designed to incentivize projects and prove compliance with the state’s renewable goals — has suffered from oversupply with credits purchased from other states.

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