President Trump signed a new executive order recently. His goal is to save the coal industry, increase pipeline construction, relax mileage rules, and get rid of other “job creating” regulations. While everyone is fixated on unlocking big projects that represent the fossil fuel industry, the punditry has lost sight of the fact that infrastructure is no longer made up of monolithic, centralized, and inefficient projects directed by the government. Even President Trump wants the Government to pass the baton to the private sector via his tax credit led infrastructure plan. The reality is that infrastructure led by the private sector has to be resilient, flexible, and distributed. This approach minimizes risk and tends to favor resource efficiency solutions – a term coined by McKinsey in 2011 to describe lower risk, higher profit approaches long into the future.
America stopped doing big infrastructure projects like the Hoover dam, the Interstate Highway systems, and 2,400 MW coal plants a long time ago. Instead, investors are opting for $1 million to $500 million projects that are local and manageable. Even T. Boone Pickens got into the fray on his podcast by saying that Obama era regulations didn’t slow fracking, and Trump’s approach won’t increase fracking.
In North Carolina, Amazon just built a wind farm in Trump country that generated $18 million for the local economy during construction and will continue to generate more than $1 million per year during its operation. A First Baptist Church leased excess land to a solar farm and saw an 833 percent increase in revenue from that land. Sun Raised Farms, a network of family farmers across North Carolina who place and manage sheep on utility-scale solar farms, earned those farmers more than $250,000 in extra income in 2015.
In Virginia, Amazon was able to force Dominion to add almost 260 MW of cost effective solar in order to secure their selection of a Virginia site for their data farm. Virginia had been hostile to all forms of local renewable energy and electricity deregulation.
Infrastructure is no longer made up of monolithic, centralized, and inefficient projects directed by the government. Tweet This Quote
In West Texas’ Nolan County, the tax base jumped from $400 million a year to $3 billion, largely as a result of wind power. Oil drilling is also back in Nolan County, but with all of the automation, the jobs aren’t coming back with it this time around. Because clean-power prices are generally set by decades-long contracts, renewables tend to produce a predictable flow of cash to public coffers. The oil industry, on the other hand, slashed the taxes it paid to state and local governments across Texas in 2016 by 40 percent from 2014 — another drawback to an industry dependent on volatile commodity pricing. When oil is cheap, tax revenue dries up.
The Atlanta, Georgia, metro area has seen some of the biggest growth in solar employment. A few years back, Bubba McDonald forced Georgia Power to buy cost effective solar power from local landowners. The resulting boom has made Georgia the solar power hub of the Southeast, and the economic development has spilled over into South Carolina and a reluctant Florida.
Even in Wyoming, where legislators are now trying to claim that the State owns the wind, innovative things are happening. Microsoft and Black Hills Energy have entered into an agreement where Microsoft’s back-up generation will be fired by natural gas and operated by the power company as a peaking plant to level out the grid as more and more wind power comes on line. It is an innovative arrangement that has been done nowhere else and which satisfies the folks at Black Hills Energy, while allowing Microsoft to get a lot of wind power to its data center.
This trend is happening across all 50 states. The Solar Foundation released data recently showing that one in every 50 jobs were created by the solar industry last year. Stop and think about that for a minute, the solar industry hired more people last year than the fossil fuel industry, homebuilding industry, or the auto industry – and they paid an average of $26/hour. The Solar Foundation just launched a very cool new interactive map that can show you exactly how many solar jobs there are in your county or congressional district.
The rest of the Solar Foundation press release below:
“The solar industry is generating well-paying jobs everywhere from Detroit to Miami to Salt Lake City, and in states from Ohio to Texas to South Carolina,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “America’s solar energy boom adds tens of billions of dollars to our economy each year, all while providing an affordable, reliable, and local energy source.”
The top 25 metropolitan areas based on the total number of solar workers are listed below, along with the percentage increase or decrease from 2015. The Solar Jobs Map provides complete data on solar jobs in all 50 states, along with details on jobs by solar employment sector, percentages of women and veterans in the solar workforce, and more. Users can toggle between 2015 and 2016 data to compare the number of solar jobs year over year.
In 2016, The Solar Foundation found that with 260,077 solar workers nationwide, the solar industry produced $62.5 billion in direct sales. The solar industry’s broader labor impact that includes direct, indirect, and induced jobs amounted to nearly 789,000 U.S. jobs. These jobs paid more than $50 billion in salaries, wages, and benefits and produced $154 billion in total economic activity for the United States in 2016. State-based economic impact data for California, Florida, New York, Ohio, and Texas are available via fact sheets at SolarStates.org.
One in every 50 jobs were created by the solar industry last year. Tweet This Quote
“Solar power not only enhances environmental protection and health — it helps accelerate economic growth,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. “We are pleased that the solar industry continues to find Colorado a good state for business. For years, Colorado has been on the leading edge of clean energy and solar deployment. Thanks to Coloradans’ vision, initiative, and leadership, we’ve grown our solar workforce by 20 percent in 2016 – and are among the top states in solar deployment, setting a great example for the entire nation.”
Since 2010, The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census has defined solar workers as those who spend at least 50 percent of their time on solar-related work. The Solar Foundation has consistently found that approximately 90 percent of these workers spend 100 percent of their time on solar-related work. The Solar Jobs Census 2016 was part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) data collection effort that included more than 500,000 telephone calls and over 60,000 emails to energy establishments in the U.S. between October and November 2016. This resulted in a total of 3,888 full completions for establishments involved in solar activity in the United States.
Detailed information on solar jobs at the national level can be found in the full report for the National Solar Jobs Census 2016, available at SolarJobsCensus.org. Complete information on solar jobs at the state and local levels can be found in the Solar Jobs Map available at SolarStates.org.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
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