The latest numbers on jobs in the wind and solar industries are out, and they’re massive.
A new report from the Solar Foundation shows a 25 percent jump in solar sector employment — the biggest increase in the report’s seven-year history. At more than 260,000 strong, the solar workforce is now nearly four times the size of the coal mining workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This report comes on the heels of the Energy Department’s latest energy jobs report, released last month. That showed a similar rise in solar employment and a 32 percent gain in wind jobs — to more than 100,000.
And while wind and solar are growing, the Energy Department projects a decline of nearly 12 percent for mining and extraction jobs (read: oil, gas and coal) over the next six months.
So, the growth is clearly in renewables. But how’s the pay?
The oil and gas industry pays quite a bit more — more than $45 an hour. But before you rush out for roustabout wear, consider this: oil and gas jobs are often in remote, harsh locations — the sweltering Gulf of Mexico, frozen North Dakota — with two-week-on, two-week-off schedules and shifts that can run twelve hours a day.
Plus, the boom-and-bust cycles of commodity prices often translates into boom-and-bust periods of employment. This may be why the majority of oil and gas workers are unhappy with their current employment, according to a recent industry survey.
Solar jobs, especially rooftop solar jobs, tend to be nine-to-five affairs in your own town or city. While these jobs may still be physically demanding, the growth rate, flexibility and low stress level are some reasons why U.S. News rates “solar photovoltaic installer” as one of the best jobs in construction.