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Solar jobs climb in Iowa

Almost 100 Iowa businesses are part of the solar energy supply chain, according to the national Solar Foundation. Above, a solar panel installed by the Farmers Electric Co-op in Kalona . (The Gazette)
Almost 100 Iowa businesses are part of the solar energy supply chain, according to the national Solar Foundation. Above, a solar panel installed by the Farmers Electric Co-op in Kalona . (The Gazette)

While an annual report on solar jobs showed a decline nationwide for 2018, Iowa saw a slight increase.

The Washington, D.C.-based Solar Foundation’s ninth-annual National Solar Job Census, released Tuesday, reported a bump of 4 percent in solar-related jobs in Iowa — from 815 in 2017 to 844 last year. Almost 100 Iowa businesses are part of the solar energy supply chain, it found.

Twenty-eight other states experienced some growth in solar-related occupations, the census noted. Florida saw the most of all states, with 1,769 additional jobs.

The industry as a whole, however, recorded a 3.2 percent drop from the year before. Some 242,000 solar workers were counted nationwide for 2018, which is about 8,000 fewer people employed in the profession in 2018, according the census.

The trade association said in a Tuesday news release the smaller numbers were “due to solar companies delaying many utility-scale projects in late 2017 while awaiting the outcome of a petition for new tariffs on solar panels and cells. These delays led to reduced capacity growth and fewer jobs in the first three quarters of 2018.”

“The new census reaffirms what we are seeing in the field — solar energy is creating jobs and providing economic impact to rural and urban communities across Iowa,” Tim Dwight, president of the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association, said in the release.

Some of the findings in the census included:

l About 155,000 solar jobs, or two-thirds of the total, were in the installation

and project development sector.

l Of these, some 87,000 jobs, 56 percent, were in the residential market.

l Slightly below 30 percent, or 46,000 jobs, are in the non-residential market.

l Approximately 22,000 jobs, some 14 percent, are in the utility-scale market.

The report also noted some 26 percent of solar companies said they’ve found it “very difficult” to recruit qualified job candidates. That’s an 18 percent increase from 2017 census.

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