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How US Solar Energy will reach new heights in 2021

Small Solar Growth 2021

Article posted by Sam Liggins

As one of the most extraordinary years for any sector came to a close, the US solar energy market, and renewable energy markets in general, finished strongly, recovering faster than expected from any pandemic-induced slowdown.

As of early December 2020, renewables had exceeded coal in generation for 153 days of the year, compared to just 39 the year before, and in Q3, 43% of all newly added electricity generation in the US was solar, outperforming all other generation technologies. The Institute for Energy Economic and Financial Analysis envisages the US harnessing more power in 2021 from renewables than from coal, with spending on renewables expected to pass that of oil and gas for the first time ever. Solar installations are also back on track as we head into 2021, projected to be only slightly behind pre-pandemic forecasts for the coming year.

Given the exponential growth in the sector and the need to tackle climate change with clean energy, we fully expect to see the solar energy industry reach new heights in 2021 and beyond, with a notable event on January 20th set to accelerate matters further.

The new administration

The presidential transition has already seen the spotlight move back onto renewables, with stocks rising at the thought of many of the obstructive policies and regulations of the last four years being removed or amended. It is expected that the new administration will roll back a number of its predecessor’s executive orders, possibly introducing a national clean energy standard and a carbon policy, as well as rejoining the Paris Agreement. At the moment, it’s all wishful thinking and the first 100 days will be interesting, but any moves in the direction of an ultimate net-zero goal will inevitably change the energy landscape and be a boost to the solar sector. Whether or not the current high tariffs on solar panels will be revoked remains to be seen given the need to keep the manufacturing of them domestic, but the other positive changes in the short term will be a huge boost for the sector.

Solar hiring trends

Despite the global pandemic and its economic fallout, we have seen a continued rise in demand across a number of disciplines in solar energy over the last 12 months and we fully anticipate this demand to intensify in 2021. Even though a number of the roles can be considered specialist due to the ever-changing technology, and many didn’t even exist 25 years ago, there are plenty of opportunities for those with transferable skills from other energy sectors. While we have always specialized in placing talent into Construction and Installation roles, there has also been a sharp rise in demand from our clients for Operations and Maintenance professionals to service their portfolios. The other main disciplines in the sector experiencing demand are Grid & Infrastructure; Manufacturing; and Engineering, and if the Solar+ Decade (the industry’s plan for the coming decade) goals are reached, the sector could be employing 600,000 Americans by 2030.

Longer term outlook

Another aim of the Solar+ Decade is that by 2030, solar will generate 20% of the electricity in the US by 2030, offsetting electricity sector emissions by 35%. There are currently 237 solar projects, worth $58 billion, scheduled for the next five years, with five states leading the way:

  • Texas - 45 projects scheduled

  • Nevada - total solar project spend is estimated to rise to $9bn dollars by 2030

  • California - the solar capacity in the state will increase by 16,000 MW

  • New York - 14 projects scheduled

  • Virginia - 30,000 solar jobs expected to be created

All of these projects will help fast-track the transition from traditional fuels to renewable power and are part of a nationwide new infrastructure that is estimated to be a $16 trillion investment opportunity over the next ten years. 

View our latest US Solar jobs here. Alternatively get in touch with Rhys to find out how we can help you and your business -