Category Solar Energy Markets
After a decade of strong growth, the global solar market—from a production and profit standpoint—has stalled. The financial crisis in the United States sent domestic markets reeling, and reduced government tax receipts have led many states to question their often generous incentives for renewable energy. As states have been reluctant to expand their own incentive programs in the United States, the impact of the federal government’s aggressive stimulus plan, which included numerous marketdriving policies for the solar industry, is subsiding.
While the storm clouds over the US economy appear to be lifting, Europe—the leading region for solar-installed capacity—remains in turmoil...Read More
There are no reliable estimates on the size and scope of Chinese solar industry employment. However, there are indicators that allow for some useful analysis of the industry.
First, China is heavily invested in panel production over installation. With the help of state run banks and massive public investments in infrastructure and demand, China has risen to take 80% of European solar market.
Chinese solar production increases have helped to fuel the global solar module output from only 100 MW in 2000 to approximately 50,000MW in 2012, a 500-fold increase in only 12 years! According to Steven Lacy, “In four years, the solar manufacturing sector shifted from being led by a geographically dispersed number of companies to one dominated by Chinese companies...Read More
The German labor market is quite different from its global competitors. It is much more efficient, as the industry in Germany has overall lower soft costs and generally larger systems. As noted in Chapter 5, 42% of Germany’s 2012 PV installations were >1 MW, so just by nature of efficiencies of scale, we would expect lower labor intensity.
While Germany has long been an efficient labor market, Germany Trade and Invest reports that its productivity has increased dramatically since 2005. This increased efficiency translates to a yearly average decrease to labor unit costs of 0.3% for the period 2005-2010.  The report credits “highly flexible working practices, such as fixed term contracts, shift systems, and 24/7 operating permits” for these decreases, particularly in th...Read More
The solar industry has many other types of firms that do not classify neatly into manufacturing, installation, sales, or project development. These firms include research and development organizations, financiers, law firms, and others. Employers in this category contribute over 8000 solar workers to the labor force of the industry.
Supportive firms are not as frequently working exclusively with solar. Nearly one – third earns <50% of their revenue from solar.
In addition, the overwhelming majority (87%) work with PV products and services rather than water heating or CSP.Read More
Solar project developers refer to the class of companies that oversee the construction of larger scale installations. These firms, often large construction or energy companies, typically manage the entire process from site preparation, obtaining financing, managing legal issues, and ultimately building the plants. Some developers also manage the systems, though the operation and management of utility-scale solar requires minimal labor inputs.
There are just over 400 companies identified as solar project developers in the United States employing nearly 8000 solar workers. Of these, nearly 95% work with photovoltaics, while about 10% work on CSPRead More
Sales and distribution firms are an important bellwether for the solar industry as these firms are engaged with both domestic and foreign imports and exports. As of
the third quarter of 2012, there are 3050 solar sales and distribution establishments in the United States employing 16,005 solar workers.
The majority of sales and distribution companies focus on PV systems and solar water heaters; however, a trend is emerging with more firms selling or distributing PV and significantly fewer offer solar water heating products. This is important to consider in the future, as solar water heating continues to lag PV in uptake.
Slightly more than 1500 of the firms in sales and distribution are strictly solar businesses. The others also work with other electronic and heating and cooling systems...Read More
US solar manufacturing is in a tailspin. With the exception of a few larger, niche firms, the substantial oversupply and resulting precipitous declines in module prices have led to sharp declines in the industry.
From 2011 to 2012, US solar manufacturers shed about one-fifth of their workforce. Several high profile bankruptcies, including the well-publicized Solyndra and
Evergreen Solar cases, were only the tip of the iceberg. While these firms could easily be chalked up to poor management or lack of demand for innovative, next generation products, finish product manufacturers throughout the country faced declines.
As of 2012, 1262 solar manufacturing establishments in the United States employed 29,742 solar workers...Read More
The installation sector makes up the biggest segment of the US solar industry. As of 2012, installation firms employ 57,177 solar workers at 8813 establishments. The majority of these, over 6500, are quite small, employing only 2 or 3 solar workers and are engaged in other work in addition to installation.
Installation employment has grown dramatically over the last several years. In 2010, the first year of reliable and comparable estimates, installation firms employed just over 43,000 solar workers. This number is expected to swell to nearly 70,000 by the end of 2013, a staggering 57% growth rate over 3 years.
Installers added the most new solar workers of any solar sector in 2012, more than offsetting declines in US solar manufacturing...Read More