Solar power is becoming an increasingly important part of the planet's energy mix, as evidenced by the recent publication of the Solar Foundation's 2017 National Solar Jobs Census.
Last year, just over 250,000 Americans were working in solar. While this figure is impressive, it represents a 3.8 percent drop since 2016.
Looking at the bigger picture, however, there are reasons to be optimistic. Over the past seven years, the solar workforce has grown by 168 percent, rising from around 93,000 roles in 2010 to 250,271 in 2017.
The Solar Foundation's census is based on "a rigorous survey of solar establishments conducted between October and November 2017." A "solar employee" is defined as a person who spends "at least" half their time on work related to solar energy.
Here, Sustainable Energy takes a look at the 10 states leading the way in solar jobs.
Nevada – 6,564 jobs
Nevada posted a roughly 22 percent decrease in solar jobs compared to 2016, although it still employed more than 6,500 people in the solar industry in 2017.
Colorado – 6,789 jobs
On its website, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that the solar market in Colorado has "tremendous potential for solar expansion." The number of solar jobs in the state grew in 2017 to just over 6,700, according to the Solar Foundation's figures.
New Jersey – 7,106 jobs
Solar jobs in the Garden State grew in 2017, rising to a little over 7,100. The SEIA has reported that there are over 480 solar businesses in the state, ranging from manufacturers to contractor/installers and project developers.
North Carolina – 7,622 jobs
Posting growth of around 7 percent, North Carolina was home to just over 7,600 solar jobs last year. On its website, the SEIA states that solar in the Tar Heel state has been boosted by both strong state policy and regulatory support. The organization has also described North Carolina as being "a leader in utility scale solar."
Arizona – 8,381 jobs
Solar work in Arizona grew in 2017. Blessed by an abundance of sunshine, the state can boast a number of impressive solar facilities, such as the 290 MW Agua Caliente Solar Project. Agua Caliente can produce power for 100,000 average homes and displace 220,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to developer First Solar.
Florida – 8,589 jobs
The Sunshine State saw solar jobs increase from 8,260 in 2016 to over 8,500 in 2017.
Texas – 8,873 jobs
Solar jobs in Texas decreased in 2017, according to the Solar Foundation. On its website, the Texas Solar Power Association states that Texas has the biggest solar resource in the U.S. It adds that solar power is both helping to diversify the Texan power supply and cut water consumption.
Solar is not the only renewable resource making waves in Texas. In October, tech giant Amazon announced that Amazon Wind Farm Texas was operational and would add more than 1 million megawatt hours of clean energy to the grid annually.
New York – 9,012 jobs
Solar is becoming increasingly important to New York state. At the beginning of 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York state-supported solar power had increased by almost 800 percent between December 2011 and December 2016, with nearly $1.5 billion leveraged in private investment.
Massachusetts – 11,530 jobs
Solar jobs in Massachusetts may have fallen by around 21 percent in 2017, but the state still employs the second largest solar workforce in the U.S.
California – 86,414 jobs
A solar powerhouse, more than 5.2 million homes in California are powered by solar, according to the SEIA. While the number of solar jobs in the Golden State fell by about 14 percent in 2017, it was still comfortably home to the largest number of roles in the sector.
Solar power facilities in California include the vast Topaz Solar Farm, which has a capacity of 550 MW and can produce enough electricity to power 160,000 "average" homes in the state, according to developer First Solar.