There’s no doubt: the U.S. solar industry is growing, as more and more businesses, governments, schools, and non-profits search for clean energy that’s both affordable and reliable. The latest data, from Q3 of 2019, showed a 45% increase in solar installations year-over-year. Even more impressive is solar’s growth over the past decade. In 2010, solar made up just 4% of all new generation in the United States; by 2019, that number had jumped to 39%. Amid all that growth, solar companies have a challenging question to answer: where should they invest their time, talent, and resources? For Sun Tribe, the answer to that question has always been clear: as a Virginia-based company and Virginia’s leading solar provider, we have always been committed to growing the solar industry in the Commonwealth. Today, there’s an emerging consensus that Virginia is poised to be one of the next big breakout solar markets.
If you’re going to embrace renewable energy and power more of your state through solar, you need a workforce capable of delivering. So when looking at whether a market is capable of growth, jobs are a helpful indicator. And by this metric, Virginia (home to job creators in the Charlottesville area like Sun Tribe, Hexagon Energy, Apex Clean Energy, Lumin, Sun Day Solar, and others) is home to a thriving community of workers ready to build the Commonwealth’s solar future.
In February of 2020, the Solar Foundation released its annual Solar Jobs Census, with numbers that tell a great story nationally, and for Virginia specifically. In 2019, the U.S. solar industry created 249,983 jobs – a 5,000+ job increase over 2018. And since 2010, solar jobs in the U.S. have increased 167%.
The state-by-state numbers look even better for Virginia. According to reporting in the Virginia Mercury, solar jobs in Virginia were up 15 percent last year, with the Commonwealth ranking 7th in solar job growth. You can see a clear picture in the chart below: the U.S. South has seen a significant increase in solar jobs, along with New York, Utah, Illinois, and others.
At Sun Tribe, we’ve been committed to growing and diversifying Virginia’s s olar industry. Whether that’s partnering with the City of Charlottesville on an innovative Go Solar program, creating jobs in our own company, or working to pass the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which would create over 29,000 solar jobs in Virginia.
Regulation/Legislation – Virginia Clean Economy Act
Virginia is also well positioned for growth thanks to the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which passed out of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly in February of 2020. While the legislative process is still ongoing (including a likely Conference Committee to iron out the differences between the two versions of the legislation) it looks likely that the bill will make it to the Governor’s desk for signature this year.
One of the key attributes of the Virginia Clean Economy Act is a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – a requirement that Virginia gets at least 30% of its power from clean energy by 2030, with a long-term requirement of reaching 100% clean energy by 2050. A mandatory RPS will have a significant and positive impact across Virginia’s solar industry, but particularly in the demand for Virginia-based Renewable Energy Certificates/Credits (RECs) which you can read more about here.
Estimates have shown that the Clean Economy Act will lead to $3,500 in savings for the average Virginia household over the next 30 years, creating jobs for the solar industry, and remove barriers to solar like the Power Purchase Agreement cap currently in place in Virginia. But most importantly, it will provide certainty for companies like Sun Tribe – knowing that there’s a regulatory environment that is stable and welcoming of solar, which will encourage investment and growth in the industry throughout the Commonwealth. You can take a look at this article in Charlottesville Tomorrow and this reporting from the Virginia Mercury to learn more.