It’s no secret that California has been ramping up its solar industry in recent years, due in no small part to the state’s aggressive renewable portfolio standard. A new report from the Centers of Excellence, in collaboration with the Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association, takes a look at the solar industry in the Golden State, drawing some interesting conclusions on the future of green jobs across the state.
The report, entitled “Solar Industry & Occupations: Distributed and Utility-scale Generation,” focuses on the San Francisco Bay Area, Central California (including the Central Valley and Central Coast) and Southern California. It offers, first, a roll call for the California solar industry: the state is currently home to 3,500 solar firms employing 25,000 people. Based on current trends, it goes on to predict that the state could add as many as 18,000 jobs by 2015.
The highest projected growth area for the solar industry during that period? Distributed solar generation—those small-scale, decentralized installations often seen on commercial rooftops—as well as manufacturing and distribution, which is expected to grow by by 40 percent, adding 5,500 jobs in the next year alone.
Here’s the catch, though: while California’s community college system has done a fine job of training solar installers for the industry—singlehandedly meeting and potentially exceeding the market demand for solar installers in California—the future of solar in these California regions will require different types of skills, which many college programs are not currently equipped to teach.
The study recommends that the 54 community colleges across the regions studied that now feature solar training programs expand their solar curriculum to cover the basics of energy production, power plant management and solar technologies. This will be especially necessary in inland Southern California and the Central Valley, where solar is booming, but the market for installers has been saturated.