Georgia’s solar industry adds jobs as PSC calls for more solar energy

By David Pendered

Georgia has climbed to 16th place in the nation in 2013 for the number of workers in the solar industry, according to a new report by The Solar Foundation.

Solar panels on the roof the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Credit: David Pendered

The installation of solar panels on the roof the Atlanta Community Food Bank represent the growth in jobs in the solar industry. File/Credit: David Pendered

Georgia has added some 1,800 solar jobs since 2012, bringing the total number of jobs in Georgia’s solar industry to about 2,600, the report found.

“This report shows that the solar industry is putting people to work to meet a growing percentage of our energy needs with a pollution-free energy source that has no fuel costs,” Jennette Gayer, with Environment Georgia, said in a statement announcing the report.

A “by the numbers” snapshot of Georgia’s solar jobs shows the following:

  • Top three job categories: Manufacturing, Installation, Other;
  • Change in ranking since 2012: Up to 16th from 23rd;
  • Solar jobs per capita ranking: Up to 32nd from 42nd;
  • Number of homes powered by solar power ranking: 21st, with about 3,255 homes;
  • Total solar companies: 146;
  • Maximum solar resource ranking: 18.

California is ranked No. 1 for the number of solar jobs, with 47,233 jobs related to the solar industry, the report found. The major job categories are installation, manufacturing, and sales/distribution.

The report comes as the Georgia continues to grapple with the issue of solar energy.

Solar panels installed above a parking lot help power Ted Turner's building in downtown Atlanta. Credit: David Pendered

Solar panels installed above a parking lot help power Ted Turner’s building in downtown Atlanta. File/Credit: David Pendered

In less than a year, Georgia’s Public Service Commission has approved 735 megawatts through solar power arrays. Now the question is how that power will be generated and governed. Rooftop solar panels on homes is part of the picture.

Enter House Bill 874. Its advocates, including Environment Georgia, say it would help homeowners finance the installation of solar panels by contracting directly with solar financing companies. The procedure would provide additional methods for homeowners to pay for the installation of solar panels on their homes. The bill was filed Jan. 28 has not moved out of the House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee.

The bill has bipartisan support and is co-sponsored by an alliance that includes Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) and Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates).

The growth in Georgia’s solar jobs is similar to the gains at the national level, according to another report the foundation released.

At the national level, the solar industry added 23,682 jobs in 2013 to raise the total number of jobs in the industry to 142,698, the foundation reported. The growth rate of 19.9 percent is 10 times the national average employment rate, which the foundation reported as 1.9 percent.

The foundation included supportive comments from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz when it announced the national report card:

  • “This is an exciting time for the solar industry in the United States, made even more clear by the latest industry jobs figures. According to the Solar Foundation, today there are more than 140,000 Americans employed up and down the U.S. solar supply chain and across every state. Since 2010, the solar industry has created nearly 50,000 new American jobs and employment has grown nearly 20 percent in the last year alone.
  • “President Obama has set an ambitious goal to double electricity generation from renewable resources once again by 2020, and a vibrant U.S. workforce is achieving this.”

The Solar Foundation stated that the report is based on “wholly original figures” published by the foundation.

The information on each state is based on the foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2013, the Solar Energy Industries Association’s National Solar database and other sources: “These numbers are believed to be the most credible and up-to-date state-level jobs numbers in existence for each of the 50 states.”


David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

4 replies
  1. atlman says:

    Excellent! The main problem with alternative energy is that we dismantled our Cold War research apparatus not long after the Berlin Wall fell. The left wanted to focus on social programs, the right simply wanted less spending, so we no longer have anywhere near the research capacity – either basic or applied – to dedicate to alternative energy as we once did. NIS, DOE, NASA, you name it, it has all been cut to the bone. The only thing that gets any research money now is technology to spy on people. 
    As for the projects in Georgia, they’re a mixed bag. Based on the Georgia Power thing in Camilla, where 150 acres of abandoned farmland is now a solar farm that AT PEAK CAPACITY will only provide enough electricity for 5000 homes, they’re not using the latest and best technology. No attempt to be innovative, they’re just throwing up the cheapest easiest stuff they can to comply with the clean energy mandates.  
    Really, there is no reason why Georgia shouldn’t lead the alternative energy race. The state has no oil, coal, natural gas or nuclear reserves to speak of. It’s amazing that we don’t invest in that area to grow our own jobs and economy. Look at the corn states: they’ve kept the ethanol scam going for decades, nothing but a federal jobs program that drives up gas AND corn prices and hurts the national economy, but the result is jobs in Kansas and Nebraska so nobody says anything. Not saying that Georgia should try to cook up their own scam like that (biomass or biofuel from peaches, pecans and peanuts I guess?) but there still ought to be some stuff that the guys at Georgia Tech and UGA could cook up that would actually work.Report

  2. RayBoggs says:

    On the surface, getting a solar system on your roof from a solar leasing company for no money out of pocket might seem like a great deal, but here are the facts behind this type of rental financing. When you sign that solar lease contract you’ll be forfeiting the 30% federal tax credit which can typically be worth about $3,500 to $10,000. You’ll also be forfeiting any applicable cash rebate or other financial incentives. After collecting both the 30% federal tax credit and any cash rebate, the leasing company will also apply accelerated depreciation. Despite applying all of the financial incentives, on a $0 down 20 year solar lease, the leasing company will then charge you 20 years worth of leasing payments that many times will include up to a 2.9% annual payment escalator that will raise your monthly payment, every year for twenty years. 
    The leasing companies will try to convince you that a solar system requires a lot of maintenance and expensive insurance and costly monitoring when nothing could be further from the truth. Modern grid tie solar system require little to no maintenance and the bulk of any repairs are covered by the manufacturer’s and installer’s warranties. Solar panels and many inverters come standard with a 25 year warranty. Insurance can be added through your homeowner’s insurance policy with little to no increase in your premium and many solar systems come standard with built in, web based  monitoring. 
    The bottom line with insurance, repairs and monitoring is that a leased solar system will typically cost you up  to three times more than a purchased solar system, so it is actually you who will be paying for these services, not the leasing company. The leasing companies will try to convince you that these services are free but with a system cost that’s triple that of a purchase, these services are absolutely not free.
    The leasing companies will try to convince that their rental financing is the only $0 down option in town, which again is not true. There are plenty of $0 down loans available that even offer tax deductible interest. Solar leases and PPAs do not offer tax deductible interest. 
    What’s worse is that after paying 20 years worth of leasing payments that amount to triple the amount that you could have paid if you purchased your system instead, you won’t even own the solar system. It will still be the leasing company’s property. If you want to own it after paying your lease off, you will still need to buy it from the leasing company at fair market value. All this for only a 10 to 15% reduction in your electric bill. This is just the tip of the solar lease and PPA iceberg. For more information simply search the term solar lease disadvantages in any major search engine. There’s a lot you should consider before signing that airtight 20 year lease contract.Report

  3. Brian Edwards says:

    Looking to go solar? Don’t jump on the first installation company that comes your way! You will find the solar solution that is best for your property and save on your installation costs by comparing quotes from trusted local companies! Installing solar panels is a long term investment that should last you more than 25 years and save you thousands of dollars.
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