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S.C. solar jobs up 10% in 2019

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South Carolina saw a 10% increase in its solar workforce last year to 3,037 total jobs, according to a report from the nonprofit advocacy group The Solar Foundation.

Nationally, solar jobs were up 2.3% in 2019, an increase of 5,600 jobs, to 249,983 total jobs focused primarily on solar-related activities. The increase comes after two consecutive years of solar job losses.

Kion North America in Summerville added solar to its rooftop in 2018. The Solar Foundation said solar jobs increased by 10% in South Carolina in 2019, mostly in installation and project development. (Photo/Andy Owens)The Solar Foundation has published its national solar jobs census annually since 2010. Over the past decade, American solar jobs have increased 167%; in 2010, the U.S. had just over 93,000 jobs in the solar industry.

Most of the solar job gains were in installation and project development, The Solar Foundation said in its report.

“In just 10 years, despite facing many challenges, solar has grown from a niche product to a mainstream energy source that provides a quarter of a million high-quality jobs,” Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the foundation, said in a news release. “This is great news, but it’s only a fraction of what can be accomplished if we are truly committed to solving the climate crisis and expanding the use of solar and storage.”

Across the Southeast, Florida has the second-highest number of solar jobs nationwide, growing 18% in 2019 for a total of 12,202 solar workers. Georgia solar jobs increased by 30%, the highest rate of growth in the country, for a total of 4,798 jobs. North Carolina saw a 1.5% decrease of solar jobs, for a total of 6,617 solar workers in the state.

The Solar Foundation said the overall job growth reflects the lowered cost of solar technologies and its increased popularity among individuals, businesses and electric utilities.

The foundation said that in South Carolina, the Energy Freedom Act that was passed in May helped contribute to the job growth. For example, the nonprofit said in its report, Charleston-based solar contractor Southern Current increased its workforce to over 80 full-time employees in 2019.

A call and two emails to Southern Current were not returned by press time.

“South Carolina’s economy is booming and the growth of our renewable energy industry is a significant part of our success,” Gov. Henry McMaster said in the release. “As our state grows, we must continue to look for new ways to generate clean, affordable energy and make it accessible to our citizens.”

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