Last month the Solar Foundation announced another year of robust growth.
“As of 2016, more than 260,000 Americans are working full-time in the solar industry,” says the group’s leader, Andrea Luecke, in a promotional spot. “That’s more than the number of people who work at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google combined.”
The number of rooftop solar panels in Utah has roughly doubled year-to-year. And energy from solar farms is booming, too.
“You don’t see that sort of growth in very many different industries” says Kate Bowman, who follows solar for the nonprofit Utah Clean Energy.
“We’re seeing more solar in the state and more jobs installing solar,” she adds, “but then [also] from companies who want to bring their solar here and actually locate them in Utah because they see the promise of a good market into the future.”
In Utah last year, the foundation counted 4,408 solar-industry jobs. Over 1,700 of those were new. The Provo-Orem area even landed on the top-25 list nationally.
But there are clouds on the future. One is the gradual end to a state tax credit. Another is a rooftop solar rate change proposed by Rocky Mountain Power.
“It’s created a lot of volatility in the market,” Bowman says, “and it’s really hard as a solar customer right now or a potential solar customer to decide whether it’s a smart investment for you.”
She points out that the power company, solar companies and other stakeholders are working on a fair resolution on rates. The case heads to the Utah Public Service Commission this summer.