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New York Climbs a Couple Notches to Become the Nation's Fifth Largest Solar Employer

Pierre Bull

Posted February 12, 2014 in Curbing Pollution, Green Enterprise

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Hot on the heels of last month’s exciting news that the US solar industry added nearly 24,000 jobs in 2013, making it one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, comes some really good news for New Yorkers:

Over that same time period, solar jobs in our state grew by more than 50 percent. That makes New York the fifth largest solar employer in the nation, up from seventh in 2012.

New York Means Solar Business and Job Opportunities

To what do we owe our good fortune? “A lot of the growth has to do with the state incentives—with the NY-Sun Initiative,” says David Elliott, owner of Enlighten Power Solutions, a solar installer in Ballston Spa, just north of Albany. NY-Sun is New York’s ambitious effort, led by Governor Cuomo, to drive growth in the solar industry and make solar increasingly affordable for New Yorkers of all stripes. Already, the program has helped quadruple the amount of customer-sited solar photovoltaics in New York. And now, with the state’s proposed 10-year extension of the program, and an innovative plan of action called K-Solar, designed to bring solar to local schools all across New York state, solar companies have the kind of policy stability they need to grow even further.

Along with many other locations, that growth is on bold display in the Bronx, at OnForce Solar. Last year, the company more than doubled its staff, from 25 to 55, adding employees who “design, engineer, finance and install solar for customers throughout the state,” explains company president David Sandbank. Solar One, a training program in New York City, saw five of its trainees hired last year. “That’s new, because in year’s past, there have not been jobs in solar for our graduates,” says Esther Siskind, Director of Programs. The organization’s now running a new course that includes solar installation skills, thanks to increased demand for graduates. And Enlighten Power, which recently installed several residential solar systems and a 40-kilowatt system at a local dairy farm, “has doubled every year,” from a one-person operation six years ago, to 15 in the off-season and 25 during the construction season now.

Now’s the Time to Voice Your Support for New York Solar

Companies like these and others are looking forward to even more growth, now that the state is pursuing its $1 billion extension of NY-Sun. That extension is currently before the state’s Public Service Commission, and you can express your support for it by mail:

Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary, Public Service Commission,

3 Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York 12223-1350

Or email:

secretary@dps.ny.gov  

In the email or letter header be sure write:

Case 03-E-0188, Proceeding on Motion of the Commission Regarding a Retail Renewable Portfolio Standard

(I.D. No. PSC-02-14-00005-P)

For additional help on submitting comments you can call the PSC office: (518) 474-6530

Less Pollution and More Jobs

Should it come through, the program will likely lead to 3,000 megawatts of clean solar power. That’s a ten-fold increase over current levels, enough electricity to power 465,000 New York homes, and will create greenhouse gas emission reductions of 2.3 million tons annually—the equivalent of taking almost 435,000 cars off the road.

Those jobs are not only for installers, who account for about half of New York’s 5,000 solar employees. Manufacturing makes up about 25 percent of the tally, and workers in research and development, finance, legal professions, policy, non-profits and academia compose another 13 percent.

“The exciting thing about solar jobs in particular is that they’re inherently local,” says Rosalind Jackson, Director of External Relations at the advocacy group Vote Solar, which helped break the news about 2013 solar job growth in New York state. “Wherever there’s a roof, wherever there’s a solar panel going up, that’s where the jobs are.”

Increasingly, thanks to Governor Cuomo’s programs that support solar, those jobs are right here in New York state.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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