Wisconsin Solar Power: A Bright Future
MADISON, Wis. - Solar power has been growing by leaps and bounds in the past five years, according to a new report from The Solar Foundation, which says Wisconsin added around 100 more solar jobs in the past year.
Wisconsin ranks 22nd in the nation in number of solar-industry jobs, most of them in the solar-equipment manufacturing sector. The report said solar has grown by 86 percent nationwide since the first report five years ago.
While adding 100 jobs in the past year is not remarkable, Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation. said it's a positive sign.
"There was modest growth of 5 percent in Wisconsin; it's up 100 jobs from 1,800 to 1,900 total," she said. "There are about 128 solar companies; about half of these jobs are coming from the demand side."
Compared with neighboring Midwest states, Wisconsin holds its own with 1,900 solar jobs. Illinois leads with 3,800 solar jobs, Minnesota has 1,800, Indiana 1,400 and Iowa 900. California continues to lead the nation in the number of solar jobs; according to the report, it is on track to have slightly more than 64,000 workers in the solar industry by the end of the year.
While Wisconsin has exhibited steady growth in the number of solar jobs, some obstacles remain to be overcome. Luecke said utility companies in Wisconsin have some ground to cover in moving ahead on the growth of solar power.
"There's broad grass-roots support for solar in the state, but there's a lack of third-party ownership. There are restrictive net-metering interconnection policies, as well as a lot of anxiety over the utility-imposed fixed charges for solar."
The Solar Foundation suggests that Wisconsin utilities should review their policies regarding solar power, to make it easier for customers to have solar panels installed at their homes and to help develop a greater demand for home-based solar power. Most of the Wisconsin jobs in the solar industry now are in the manufacture of equipment used in solar-power generation.
As the solar industry moves forward, the Foundation said, it will drive solar installation and sales jobs, which pay well and require less than a college degree.
The report is online at thesolarfoundation.org.