The Trump administration may be trying to revive the moribund coal sector in the U.S., but new figures released Tuesday show that it will be hard to catch up to the galloping solar sector. The annual National Solar Jobs Census, published by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Solar Foundation, found that 1-in-50 new jobs created in the U.S. in 2016 were in the solar industry. The report, which is the seventh annual look at the solar power workforce in the country, found that solar industry employment outpaced U.S. economic growth by 17 times, with an addition of 51,000 jobs during the year. SEE ALSO: No, U.S. climate scientists didn't trick the world into adopting the Paris deal There is now a total solar workforce of about 260,000, which is 25 percent higher compared to 2015 data. This means the solar industry now employs more people than the coal and fossil fuel electric power sectors.
Until the last few weeks, Christopher Hanson's work as a foreman installing rooftop solar systems was as bright and steady as the midmorning Wasatch Front sun. By his measure, Hanson has completed over 2,000 residential solar projects in his nearly five-year career, including one more he's about to finish for Vivint Solar here in the suburbs south of Salt Lake City. Now Hanson is nervous for his job. On Tuesday, the U.S. International Trade Commission is scheduled to start considering a tariff on imports of the most popular photovoltaic generating panels used in the booming U.S. residential and utility-scale solar markets. A stiff tariff could double the price of imported photovoltaic panels made from crystalline silicon, an outcome that is either calamitous or full of opportunity for the burgeoning solar industry, depending on how you look at it.