Utah is ranked fourth on a list of the top 10 states seeing job growth in clean energy, thanks to a boom in the solar industry. This growth comes as Utah’s oil and gas jobs are declining.
The national non-partisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs recognized Utah for creating 800 new clean energy jobs in the 2nd quarter of 2015. Some major solar projects announced in Iron and Beaver counties put Utah on the list. Jeff Barrett is Deputy Director at the Governor’s Office of Energy Development. Driven by a decline of prices in photovoltaic systems, he says Utah will more than triple its renewable energy output by 2016.
“A lot of solar is going to be built in southern Utah, thousands of megawatts, and this is just the first wave,” Barrett says.
In the meantime, since January this year, Utah has lost about the same number of jobs in the oil and gas industry as it’s gained in the clean energy sector. The Uintah Basin lost more than 1000 jobs in the past year, but Barrett says the fossil fuel bust is unrelated to the solar boom.
“There’s more need for liquid fuels in 2015 than there ever has been before,” he says. “There’s no decline in use of diesel and gasoline globally. It’s a significant thing happening out in the basin right now, and yet we know that those jobs will come back. We’ve seen it enough times to know that this is a temporary lull.”
Barrett says just as oil and gas has its cycles, so too does solar. At the end of 2016, the federal investment tax credit for solar is expected to drop from 30 percent to 10 percent. At that point, Barrett predicts solar development will slow down considerably.