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Solar energy jobs will continue on an upward growth path in New Hampshire and nationwide next year, according to a newly released report that quantifies the nation’s current and projected future solar employment.
The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit that funds solar research and education, recently released the “National Solar Jobs Census 2010,” which surveyed more than 2,400 employers throughout the nation on their current workforce and future employment estimates.
The report found that there were an estimated 93,000 solar jobs in the United States as of August 2010, with a projected job growth of 26 percent over the following 12 months – compared to the expected two percent overall U.S. job growth rate over the same period. The solar jobs included contractors and installers, manufacturers and suppliers, distributors, architects, consultants and more.
According to the study, more than half of all firms expect to increase their number of solar jobs in the coming year, while one-third plan to maintain staff levels and 2 percent anticipate reducing their staff, the report also found.
Because only 17 New Hampshire firms responded to the survey, the sample size is unreliable, though the numbers do indicate a significant increase – approximately 20 percent – in the state’s solar jobs over the next year. Regionally, the majority of solar jobs are located in the West, followed by the Northeast, but the survey found solar jobs to exist in all 50 states.
A supplementary Web site to the survey, solarworksforamerica.com, lists 55 solar companies that are creating jobs in New Hampshire, including solar heavyweight like GT Solar as well as several smaller manufacturers, installers and distributors.
The solar industry was given a boost in tough economic times by the Treasury Grant Program, passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allows solar companies to apply for cash grants in lieu of tax credits they would otherwise receive and is set to expire at the end of the year.
"New Hampshire is definitely on the right track to increased employment with solar companies adding jobs all across the state,” said state Sen. Senator Martha Fuller Clark, who attended a news conference announcing the study's results. “The state’s smart policies such as RGGI and our Renewable Energy Fund providing much-needed capital to solar contractors, we can continue to expand this clean energy opportunity.” -- KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW