The Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census released its annual report for 2018, unearthing the extent of the damage President Donald Trump's tariffs on solar energy have caused.
The report defines "solar worker" as those who spend over 50 percent of their time on work related to the solar energy industry. Under this definition, the census found that the U.S. solar industry employs 242,343 solar workers, a 17,734-worker decline from two years ago, when Donald Trump first took office.
Before Trump too office, solar employment was steadily rising since the Solar Jobs Census' first report in 2010, with 166,575 new solar jobs created throughout the Obama presidency.
In 2018, President Trump imposed tariffs on low-cost crystalline-silicon solar products imported from China, at the request of two American solar manufacturers, SolarWorld, and Suniva who couldn't compete with the Chinese imports.
The move failed to save both companies, GreenTechMedia reports, with Suniva filing for bankruptcy and SolarWorld being bought by a competitor soon after.
It's not all grim for this high-paying industry, however. Some states have actually seen a rise in solar employment, per Inside Climate News.In 2016, Illinois passed the Future Energy Jobs Act, a law that requires an increase of renewable energy through special programs. This led to an increase of 1,308 jobs in the state in 2018.
The bill forced the state to build a solar industry from scratch, with startups like Straight Up Solar moving into the market.
"Having been involved with the solar industry since 2011, and having to essentially create our own market for so many years, it's really exciting to see all this high expectation for new solar development."Ed Gilliland, senior director of the Solar Foundation, notes that Illinois is not alone. Despite the downward national trend, the solar industry is growing across the Midwest. Solar panels are becoming more cost-efficient and the increase in climate change media coverage has increased the demand for renewable energy.
"Illinois' solar growth might also be nudging its neighbors, as other states see the economic growth there and as solar companies come to the region and look for business in nearby states."Meanwhile, Florida, the sunshine state, is now number two in solar jobs after years of being resilient to adopt the solar industry. The state saw an increase in jobs in the industry, wityh 1,769 more solar workers than it did the previous year.
This is because of changes in their utility policy that allow for leasing rooftop solar arrays, making solar energy more accessible to a big part of their population.