US Southeast’s Solar Industry Doing Better Than Most, But Still Losing Many Jobs

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May 20th, 2020 by  

Compared to most states, the large installations of North Carolina’s solar industry have been less influenced by the economic slide from the pandemic. The question is, will those numbers hold over the next few months? The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently released state data on solar job losses. Better news than others only slightly abates the concerns, as North Carolina is still showing 19% fewer solar workers than expected in June according to the data. That’s a similar case to other states in the US Southeast that were lucky enough to see less than 30% solar job loss.

Nationally, the predicted job losses in the solar sector come to 38% for 2020 through June, compared to what was expected before covid-19 hit. A few of the states hardest hit are states with terrible statistics overall regarding the virus’s invasion — New York and New Jersey, for example, will see +60% fewer solar jobs.

Elizabeth Ouzts of Energy News Network zeroed in on the North Carolina story. North Carolina is #2 in the nation for installed solar power capacity, only trailing cleantech juggernaut California.

“I think it’s very positive in these economic conditions that the solar industry can continue employing people, especially in rural communities in North Carolina,” said Maggie Clark, the Raleigh-based senior manager of state affairs in the Southeast for the Solar Energy Industries Association.

But, she added, “just like the distributed generation companies are experiencing the heartache and pressure right now, the impact of the pandemic on utility-scale solar is going to be seen.”

North Carolina’s solar industry is built heavily around utility-scale solar projects. That may be part of what’s helping it now, but there is concern the utility-scale solar sector will be hit as hard as the rooftop solar sector in time, depending on how the pandemic and economic fallout play out.

Laurel Park, NC, solar installation, by Cynthia Shahan | CleanTechnica

Rooftop solar is still a significant market in North Carolina as well. Ouzts dug into how that portion of the industry is doing.

Christian Bruno, sales and operations manager for the Raleigh office of CED Greentech — the nation’s largest supplier of solar equipment to installers — says business was down about 20% in April, according to Ouzts. “But right now, May is looking pretty good,” he said. “What we’re hoping is that in June more projects will start to roll in.”

In fact, installers promoting battery storage coupled with solar panels are actually seeing a slight uptick in sales, he said, perhaps reflecting an instinctual reaction against the pandemic. “The idea of energy independence is what most people are into right now,” he said.

Kathy Miller, co-founder and CEO of installer Yes Solar Solutions, echoed that view. The Cary-based company is still closing contracts, and a good percentage include battery storage, she said in an email. “Energy security is a (big) bigger issue now.”

But while Miller said her sales had picked up since a mid-March low, business is still slower than before. “I keep reading industry studies that say consumers are more interested in solar than ever, and of course, they have more time. But despite more interest, consumers seem to want to wait to see long-term effects on the economy and their own financial stability,” she wrote. “We have a list of those who want to be contacted ‘post-COVID 19’.”

Read more from Elizabeth Ouzts here.

Also see: “COVID-19 IMPACTS On the U.S. Solar Industry.”

Finally, here’s a related story on CleanTechnica:US Solar Industry Poised To Lose 114,000+ Jobs From COVID-19 Through June.”

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)

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