Solar demand fuels hot job growth for panel installers

Installing solar panels is the fastest-growing job in Missouri and will continue to grow at an accelerated pace to catch up with a rising demand for renewable energy, according to a national consortium of labor data experts.

In 2016, there were a total of 140 solar panel installers in Missouri. That number is expected to hop nearly 43 percent to 200 jobs by 2026, according to the Projections Managing Partnership. The partnership is supported by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other labor data agencies.

While the raw number of projected job gains is small compared to job fluctuations in more established industries, it reflects the expected growth of the solar industry in Missouri. There were 2,819 solar jobs in Missouri last year — up 8 percent from 2017, according to the Solar Foundation.

The accelerated growth of these jobs will continue as the demand for solar and other renewable energies rises and new technologies drive down costs, said James Owen, executive director of advocacy group Renew Missouri.

“I think the fact is that utility companies, independent contractors are seeing a demand for this,” Owen told St. Louis Public Radio. “And therefore, they are trying to build more and more facilities, wind farms, more solar arrays. And that is fueling this increase in jobs.”

St. Louis Public Radio reports that Missouri company Sun Solar grew from 15 to 100 people in 2015, with 35 of those employees working as panel installers. Another company, StraightUp Solar, doubled its headcount to 65 employees last year.

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