Jobs Census 2022
With expanded jobs data on energy storage
and other clean energy industries
Solar Job Trends | Job Growth Over Time | The Solar Industry in 2022 | Solar Jobs by Sector | Solar Jobs by Occupational Category | Solar Jobs by Market Segment | Methodology
Solar Job Trends
As of December 2022, there were 263,883 jobs in the United States devoted primarily to solar energy. This job total includes all workers who spent 50% or more of their time on solar-related work. It represents an increase of 8,846 jobs, or 3.5% growth since 2021. These jobs were in 29,795 locations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
This uptick in jobs came during a year of transition for the U.S. solar industry. The most far-reaching development in 2022 was the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included the most comprehensive suite of energy and climate policies in U.S. history. The new law is expected to spur transformative growth in solar and other clean energy industries and accelerated job growth in the years ahead (see Long-Term Outlook for Solar Jobs).
In the short-term, the solar industry faced headwinds in 2022 including the threat of new tariffs on imported panels and cells. This led to a drawdown in utility-scale solar installations and a loss of about 6,000 jobs in that market segment. In contrast, residential solar saw its best year ever, with a record 40% growth in installations.1 The residential market segment grew by 11%, or about 9,500 jobs, balancing out the losses in utility-scale solar.
Overall, about two-thirds of U.S. solar jobs are at installation and project development firms. This industry sector totaled 171,558 jobs including in residential, commercial, community solar, and utility-scale. About 33,400 jobs were at manufacturing firms, a sector that is expected to grow as more domestic solar panel, cell, and wafer manufacturing plants go online (see Clean Energy Manufacturing).
In addition to the 263,883 workers spending the majority of their time on solar, there were other workers who spent less than half their time on solar-related work. In total, there were 346,143 workers who spent all or part of their time on solar.2
Overall, there were 546,630 workers in renewable energy generation industries including solar, wind, traditional and low-impact hydropower. Looking beyond electricity generation, other clean energy jobs are in transmission and distribution, energy efficiency, and fuels and vehicles. An overview of jobs in energy storage and other clean energy industries can be found here (see Jobs in Other Clean Energy Industries).
Job Growth Over Time
Since 2010, solar energy has grown from a marginal segment of the U.S. energy mix to a mainstream power source, making up 50% of new U.S. electricity-generating capacity additions in 2022.3 Solar is now an essential component of the clean energy economy that is growing to meet the world’s ambitious targets to address climate change. The rapid increase in solar installation on rooftops, businesses, and utility-scale farms has made solar energy a job creation engine. Since 2010, the number of solar jobs has more than doubled with a net 170,000 jobs added.
The U.S. solar industry has the most jobs of any clean energy industry apart from energy efficiency, and more than twice as many jobs as the coal industry. Solar employment is primarily needed to develop the infrastructure to install and manufacture photovoltaic systems. The industry’s high growth rate means that most solar jobs are in the construction stage. The solar industry employs more workers per unit of generation compared to fossil fuels, which have little construction-related employment.
Until 2016, solar job growth closely tracked the increase in installed solar capacity. Since then, the number of solar jobs has leveled while capacity continues to grow. In the five-year period between 2017 and 2022, annual installed capacity nearly doubled while solar jobs grew by 5.4%. This reflects that labor productivity has improved as the solar industry has matured.
Meanwhile, the solar industry is expected to take off dramatically in the coming years, and despite gains in labor productivity, it will require hundreds of thousands more workers to keep pace with the growth in installations as a result of the incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (see Long-Term Outlook for Solar Jobs) Meeting these labor needs will require a robust, industry-wide workforce development effort that includes outreach to diverse populations.
The Solar Industry in 2022
The U.S. solar industry hit speed bumps in 2022 ahead of a long-term expansion that is expected to begin in the next year or two. The U.S. added 21.1 GW of solar capacity in 2022, a 12% decrease from the previous year. This included a 27% decrease in the utility-scale market segment, which added 12.5 GW.4
The main reason for this contraction was supply chain challenges linked to the threat of new tariffs on imported solar panels. In March 2022, the Department of Commerce announced a circumvention inquiry into solar cells and modules imported from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.5 Since U.S. installers source the majority of their panels from these four countries, new tariffs would raise the cost of solar installations and significantly curtail deployment.
In June 2022, President Biden announced a 24-month moratorium on any tariffs as a result of this investigation. In the meantime, however, the policy dispute led companies to delay or cancel projects, with corresponding job losses. A final decision is expected in August 2023.6
Another important factor was the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, enacted in 2021 to prevent the importation of goods made by forced labor in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. This law led to hundreds of equipment detainments that reduced the supply of modules by 18%, further constraining the utility-scale sector.7 Many detained shipments have now been released from detention after documentation that they do not contain material from Xinjiang.
In marked contrast to the slowdown in the utility-scale sector, residential solar experienced record 40% growth of 5.9 GW in 2022. Unlike utility-scale, the residential segment has short project lead times, allowing installers to quickly adjust supplies as markets change. Residential also uses more domestically produced modules than utility-scale solar, mitigating the impact of supply chain challenges.8
Rooftop solar continues to attract new customers who are eager to reduce energy bills, lower their carbon footprint, and increase resilience with battery storage. In 2022, a major driver for residential customers was electricity price spikes throughout much of the country. Prices in 2022 averaged 14.3% higher than those in 2021, more than double the rate of inflation (6.5%).9 This encouraged more customers to go solar, especially in states like those in New England, where the price increases were most pronounced.10
Commercial solar installations added 1.54 GW in 2022, a 3.5% increase from the previous year. Supply chain constraints and interconnection delays slowed down community solar installations, which experienced a 6.5% reduction from 2021.11
Industry analysts expect the solar industry to recover in 2023 as the impacts of supply constraints ease and incentives under the IRA begin to go into effect. Wood MacKenzie/SEIA expects a 61% increase in utility-scale solar, 3% growth in non-residential solar (commercial and community solar), and 8% growth in residential solar. Much will depend on unknown factors such as additional trade disputes, labor availability, and the fine print on how tax credits under the IRA will work.12
Solar Jobs by Sector
The Solar Jobs Census divides U.S. solar jobs by industry sector: Installation and project development, wholesale trade and distribution, manufacturing, operations and maintenance (O&M), and a miscellaneous “all others” category. Jobs are categorized based on the firm where an employee works, rather than the employee’s individual activities. For example, jobs at installation and project development firms include not only solar installation workers, but also administrators, project managers, marketers, and sales representatives.
Demand-side sectors (installation and project development combined with wholesale trade and distribution) made up 77% of all jobs in 2022. The installation sector saw a modest 1.5% growth with 2,598 jobs added, while wholesale trade and distribution jobs grew by 6%. Demand-side jobs managed slight gains despite a significant drop in total installed capacity for two key reasons. First, residential installations, which grew considerably, employ more people per megawatt installed. Second, some delayed utility-scale construction resumed in the second half of the year but did not go online until the first quarter of 2023.
The largest jobs increase by sector in 2022 was in O&M, which grew by 32%, adding 4,000 jobs. As more solar installations go online, there will be a greater need to monitor, maintain, and repair them. Jobs in the “all others” category, which grew by 1.5%, include research and development, consulting, financial, legal, and other professional development and support services.
While there is a push to expand domestic solar manufacturing, jobs in this sector remained level from 2021 and represent a small portion of the total (see Spotlight: Solar Manufacturing).
A breakdown of solar jobs by sector in each state is available in our state-by-state solar jobs map (see Solar Jobs by State).
Solar Jobs by Occupational Category
The Solar Jobs Census also tracks employment by occupational category. While the jobs by sector are classified according to company, occupational categories reflect individual job roles. For example, only 43% of workers in the installation and project development sector directly work in installation or repair. The others might work in marketing, finance, or other support activities. Across the solar industry, 34% of workers are in installation or repair, amounting to around 88,665 workers.
Meanwhile, workers in manufacturing occupations make up 6% of jobs across all sectors. Manufacturing and production occupations can include an array of titles such as assemblers, fabricators, welders, cutters, solderers, and machinists, some of whom can be found in non-manufacturing firms. Some manufacturing firm employees may work in fields such as sales, management, or other occupations.
Solar Jobs by Market Segment
Within the installation and project development sector, the Census also breaks down jobs by market segment.13 Reflecting industry market trends for 2022, the residential segment saw 11% growth, while utility-scale jobs declined 18%.
While the residential segment represents 28% of annual installed solar capacity, it is the largest segment by far in terms of the number of jobs, making up 55% of total solar jobs in 2022. Residential firms are the most labor-intensive in the industry, providing the most jobs per MW installed. This allowed the solar industry to experience net job growth despite the drawdown in the utility-scale sector.
The commercial market segment also declined 7%, reflecting a slowdown in the market. Community Solar jobs saw a slight increase even though there was lower installed capacity than the year before. One reason could be that many community solar projects were installed in 2022 but were not yet online due to interconnection delays.14
The National Solar Jobs Census 2022 analyzes survey data gathered for the U.S. Department of Energy United States Energy & Employment Report (USEER) 2023. The 2023 USEER survey was administered by telephone (more than 274,000 outbound calls) and by web, with more than 327,700 emails sent to participants throughout the U.S. The survey was administered between January 31, 2023, and March 30, 2023, and averaged 17 minutes in length. The margin of error for all energy firms that answered questions related to energy employment in the survey is ±1.15% at a 95% confidence interval. The margin of error increases for each subgroup of respondents that participated in the survey. For example, the margin of error for questions answered by all firms that identified as solar photovoltaic (PV) is ±3.49% at a 95% confidence interval. Full details on the methodology are available in the USEER report, Appendix B.
Thanks to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) for their support as a sponsor of the National Solar Jobs Census report. SEIA provided staff expertise on solar market trends and enhanced survey collection by providing data from the National Solar Database.
Learn more about SEIA initiatives to support the solar industry at http://www.seia.org.
- Wood Mackenzie/SEIA, US Solar Market Insight 2022 Year in Review (March 2023), https://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-market-insight-report-2022-year-review.
- This total does not include the 2,107 majority-time solar workers in Puerto Rico. If these are included, the total comes to 348,250 solar workers.
- Wood Mackenzie/SEIA, US Solar Market Insight 2022 Year in Review.
- Wood Mackenzie/SEIA, US Solar Market Insight Q2 2023 Report (June 2023), https://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-market-insight-report-q2-2023.
- This included the possibility of retroactive tariffs that could even extend to before the date the investigation began.
- David Feldman et al, Spring 2023 Solar Industry Update, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Apr. 27, 2023), https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy23osti/86215.pdf.
- Michael Schoeck, Trade policy, supply chain murk waters for utility solar growth, PV Magazine (Jan. 27, 2023), https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2023/01/27/trade-policy-supply-chain-murk-waters-for-utility-solar-growth/.
- Wood Mackenzie/SEIA, US Solar Market Insight Q2 2023 Report.
- Utility Dive, Electricity prices surged 14.3% in 2022, double overall inflation: US report (Jan. 19, 2023), https://www.utilitydive.com/news/electricity-prices-inflation-consumer-price-index/640656/.
- Choose Energy, Electricity Rates by State,, https://www.chooseenergy.com/electricity-rates-by-state/ (accessed June 2023).
- Wood Mackenzie/SEIA, US Solar Market Insight Q2 2023 Report.
- Wood Mackenzie/SEIA, US Solar Market Insight Q2 2023 Report.
- Since the USEER survey does not include a question on market segments, the number of jobs in each segment is calculated based on installation data on a three-year rolling average.
- IREC and Vote Solar have published a new resource, Freeing the Grid, which grades each state on its interconnection policies for distributed energy resources (DER), such as community solar and residential solar. The report can be found at FreeingtheGrid.org.