In mid-October, my Tigercomm colleague Mark Sokolove and I took Scaling Green’s Communicating Energy lecture series on the road to the Solar Power International 2011 (SPI) conference and trade show in Dallas, Texas. With so many articulate, knowledgeable, clean energy thought leaders and company representatives in attendance, the opportunity to interview several of these folks on the state of the solar industry today and its prospects for the future was tremendous. So, we took advantage of it, specifically by speaking with:
- Rudy Wodrich, Commercial VP – Americas, Schneider Electric Renewable Energies (global specialist in energy management)
- Janet Hughes, Executive VP, Ontility (solar products distribution and training)
- Aaron Block, Director of Business Development, Skyline Innovations(solar water heating systems installation, maintenance and financing)
- Kevin Smith, CEO, SolarReserve (large-scale solar power developer)
- Rex Gillespie, Director of Marketing, Caleffi North America (solar water heating systems manufacturer)
- Tor Valenza (“Solar Fred”), Founder, UnThink Solar (solar social media strategies and marketing services)
- Philip Jordan, Principal, BW Research Partnership/Green LMI (full-service labor market consulting firm)
We plan to release lengthier videos of each of these people responding to a number of questions. For now, though, here’s a montage of them reacting to the great news out of The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) National Solar Jobs Census 2011.
This census, as we discussed earlier on Scaling Green, had exciting information regarding the state of the solar industry in the United States. A few highlights included:
- There are more than 100,000 solar jobs in all 50 states.
- The U.S. solar industry has grown 10 times faster than the national economy as a whole over the last 12 months, in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression.
- Among the top 10 states experiencing solar job growth, California had the highest at 25,575. Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, Oregon, New Jersey and Massachusetts make up the remainder of the top 10.
- The diversity of job types within the industry includes installation, manufacturing and also areas such as sales and distribution, which are actually the fastest growing (companies like Sungevity (a client of Tigercomm’s and a TSF board member), SolarCity and SunRun that provide no-money down solar leases are great examples of those contributing to this kind of job growth).
- Over the next 12 months, almost 50% of solar firms expect to add jobs.
Not surprisingly, given these statistics, the solar industry executives that Mark Sokolove and I interviewed at the SPI conference were enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of the industry. For instance, Rudy Wodrich pointed out that solar is “one segment of the economy that can truly bring back some jobs to the United States.” Janet Hughes noted that “there’s no question about it, there’s been huge job growth [in the solar industry].” Aaron Block pointed out that his company is “rapidly growing…we grew 70% in the last two years.” Kevin Smith added that solar is now a “similar size as steel production and coal mining.” Rex Gillespie reported that his company has “added several people over the past couple of years just to support the solar growth.” Tor Valenza pointed out that solar is “growing…despite the recession, despite hard times.” And, Philip Jordan, whose firm conducted the census for TSF, noted the methodology behind the study and that, “solar is growing about 10 faster than the overall economy and much faster than fossil fuel” (see video below).
In sum, these are good times for solar power, times that are likely to get even better in coming years! Thank you to everyone that spoke with us and check back in for further coverage from these interviews.