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Report: 1 in 50 new U.S. jobs came from solar last year

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 8, 2017
Employment in the industry rose in 44 states and is expected to continue growing

One out of every 50 new U.S. jobs last year came from the solar industry, with growth in that industry outpacing the overall U.S. economy by 17 times, according to a new report.

Overall, there were 260,077 solar workers in 2016, representing 2% of all new jobs, according to the Solar Foundation's Solar Jobs Census 2016.

solarcity solar power Lucas Mearian

SolarCity workers prepare to install panels on the rear of a home.

Solar employment increased by more than 51,000 workers, a 25% increase over 2015, according to the report. Solar industry employment has nearly tripled since the first National Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010 -- rising at least 20% annually for the past four years.

Along with growth in solar and other forms of renewables, energy storage is a rapidly growing industry, comprising 90,831 jobs -- of which 47,634 are focused on battery storage.

Battery storage can smooth the intermittent nature of solar and wind power, enabling a more consistent supply of energy. Lithium-ion and flow batteries can also be charged by solar energy or wind during the daytime for use at night. Similarly, storage systems can store solar or grid-provided energy when electricity rates are low and use it or sell it back to the grid when rates are high during peak business hours.

The Solar Foundation projects there will be 27,000 new solar and energy storage jobs by 2021. The projection envisions 9,000 storage jobs and another 18,000 solar jobs that would not materialize without the added value of co-locating with storage, the report said.

Outside Reno, Nevada, Tesla's Gigafactory is now producing the first of what is expected to be 500,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.

Tesla's battery systems include a consumer-grade battery -- the Powerwall line -- that stores up to 7 kilowatt hours (kWh) of power and costs $3,000 and a commercial battery system called the Powerpack, which can can store 200kWh of power. Powerpacks can be daisy-chained to create enough storage for even small cities, Tesla has claimed. The full price of the Powerpack is available on Tesla's website and will combine the battery, inverters and cabling/site support hardware.

Powerpack Tesla Tesla Energy

A Powerpack battery station, which uses 10 modules daisychained together and controlled by a single power inverter system.

Another reason for the uptick in energy storage systems is decreasing costs.

One energy storage study claimed that prices for certain battery technologies will plunge by as much as 60% over the next five years.

"Renewable energy use translates to bottom-line benefits such as lower and more stable energy costs for GM in the long term," Rob Threlkeld, global manager of Renewable Energy at General Motors, said in a statement. "With more than 67 megawatts of solar housed at 24 facilities across the globe, we see the power of sunshine as an integral part of becoming a more sustainable company."


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