The United States’s solar power industry lost 3.8 percent of its jobs, or about 9,800 workers, in 2017, an industry report found.
The Solar Foundation said that while the industry saw record-setting growth in 2016 and previous years, activity slowed last year due to factors including policy challenges in some states and uncertainty over Trump administration tariffs on imported solar panels, which were announced in January.
But the long-term job trajectory is still very positive for solar, the group said. The domestic industry had a total of 250,271 employees last year, a 168-percent increase from 2010.
“After six years of rapid and steady growth, the solar industry faced headwinds that led to a dip in employment in 2017, including a slowdown in the pace of new solar installations,” Andrea Luecke, the Solar Foundation’s president, said in a statement accompanying the annual release of its National Solar Jobs Census.
Despite the overall decline, 29 states and Washington, D.C., saw job growth. Utah, Minnesota and Arizona led the way in increased numbers of solar positions.
California kept its long-standing place at the top of the list the most solar jobs, but the state lost 14 percent of its positions.
The annual census found that an overwhelming majority of the solar industry’s jobs – 78 percent – are in “demand-side” roles like installation, project development and sales, as opposed to manufacturing.
That imbalance was a key argument against Trump’s tariffs on imported solar panels. The industry argued that the bulk of workers in the industry would be hurt by increased prices on panels, while the small portion in manufacturing would benefit.
The foundation’s surveys found that 86 percent of solar companies said tariffs would hurt their businesses, and 71 percent had already felt negative effects from the tariffs in 2017, before Trump even announced his decision.