The US Solar Foundation has just released, as a complement to their 'Solar Jobs Census 2015', information on solar employment by state. We've already profiled the headline number in a separate posting - and it's impressive - however the really cool new news is hidden in the California data.
After adding a substantial 20,000 solar jobs last year, the Golden State now leads the nation in solar-related employment with 75,598 people - far ahead of #2 Massachusetts (15,095).
All well and good but 'so what' you might say. Certainly the number in isolation is not that interesting and only acquires real significance when compared with employment in other sectors of the economy.
We'll take a look at coal and pick that sector because, after the $1.5-billion wasted at Boundary Dam CCS, it is particularly relevant for taxpayers here in Saskatchewan. Coal is also of interest because of the US coal lobby's persistent claim that there is a 'War on Coal' which is destroying tens of thousands of jobs.
The reality is that the solar industry creates far more jobs than coal and California neatly illustrates the point.
At the end of 2015, and according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (Table B-1, page 31), nationwide employment in coal mining declined from 75,200 in July 2014 to 60,700 in December 2015.
Yet - and as noted above - at the end of 2015 there were 75,598 people employed in the California solar industry. The majority of them (54 percent) worked on solar panel installation.
That's pretty cool but even more so when you consider the amount of electricity generated by both;
In 2015 California solar generated 0.5 percent of US electricity (vs 34 percent for coal) yet employed more people than the entire US coal mining sector.
Another way to say it: the California solar industry employs 25 percent MORE people than the entire US coal mining industry despite the fact that it generates 70 times LESS electricity.
Or if you want to be really nerdy: California solar employs 3.8 people per gigawatt hour (GWh) of electricity generation whereas US coal employs 0.04 people per GWh. Consequently, and per unit of electricity generated, solar generates 86 times more jobs than coal.
Imagine if solar generated 20 percent of US electricity (rather than the 1 percent currently).
Makes you think!