Tackling the USA Solar Industry: Hiring Challenges & Opportunities

The Current Industry

The US solar industry reached its biggest year so far in 2023, with 32.4 GW-direct current (GWdc) of capacity installed, an increase of 51% compared to 2022, exceeding the 30 GWdc of capacity for the first time ever.

Last year’s growth was due to slightly different factors for each segment. Residential solar grew by 12% as installations surged in California. This helped to offset declines in other states mostly due to interest rate increases. Commercial solar saw a similar increase in California too, leading to a national growth of 19% over 2022. On the other hand, community solar grew by just 3% compared to 2022. While this segment continues to struggle with interconnection delays and permitting challenges, strong pipelines in states like Illinois, New Jersey, and New York helped contribute to year-over-year growth. Lastly, utility-scale installations spiked to 22.5 GWdc of capacity, a 77% increase over 2022.

Overall, PV solar accounted for 53% of all new electricity-generating capacity additions in 2023, making up more than half of new generating capacity for the first time.

However, after a record-breaking year, Wood Mackenzie predicts a 13% year-over-year decline of residential solar installations in 2024, mainly due to a weakened consumer demand and to California’s expected decline in installations by 40%. This market is experiencing a reset this year, particularly in terms of the financing landscape and competitive dynamics, however it is predicted it will recover in 2025 and will continue to evolve.

 

Key 2024 States & Projects

Nevada

Nevada accommodates the largest solar project in development this year. The CD Solar Project will be a 2,000 MW solar and 1,000 MW battery storage facility located on approximately 18,000 acres of BLM-managed land. It is expected to take 24 months to complete. With numerous utility-scale, residential and commercial solar projects, Nevada has long been a key state for solar. As of the final quarter of 2023, it holds a 6,382.01 MW of total solar installed, making it the 6th leading state in the country in solar installations. The solar industry additionally created 7,562 new jobs in the state.

California

For the second time in the last three years, California missed out on the top spot in the state solar rankings for 2023. It installed 6.2 GW of new solar capacity last year, however recent regulatory decisions from the California Public Utilities Commission have significantly damaged its rooftop solar sector. In total, the state’s solar market is expected to decline 36% across all market segments in 2024. However, California still remains the largest solar market in the nation with 46.9 GW of total installed capacity, enough to power nearly 14 million homes.

California holds the third largest solar project development this year, the Pelicans Jaw Hybrid Solar Project, located on 3,943 acres in Kern County. The project is a solar facility with a 500 MW capacity and a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) capable of storing approximately 2,000 MWh of energy. The construction started in January 2024 and will be completed in December 2024.

Texas

Texas was at the top of the solar leaderboard in 2023, installing more solar than any other state. Since 2021, Texas has installed over 15 GW of new solar capacity which is more solar than the entire United States installed in 2019. From 2024-2034, Texas is expected to continue leading the nation with nearly 100 GW of new solar capacity additions.

Solar Proponent, a renewable energy company based in Austin, is constructing the Dogwood Creek Solar Project. The project is a 506 MWdc and 389 MWac storage capacity in Bastrop County. The project site covers about 10,000 acres of land, mainly pasture and cropland, and is expected to enter commercial operation in the first quarter of 2025.

 

Workforce Development & Challenges

The US solar industry employs 263,883 workers across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico as of 2022. According to the 13th annual National Solar Jobs Census, the sector saw a 3.5% increase in jobs from 2021, with 42 states experiencing job growth. However, finding qualified workers remains a persistent challenge. In 2022, 44% of solar industry employers reported that it was “very difficult” to find qualified applicants, marking the highest percentage ever recorded. This difficulty is enhanced by the industry's rapid expansion and competition with other sectors.

Most solar jobs are concentrated in installation and project development, making up about two-thirds of the industry's workforce. The challenge to recruit and retain skilled workers is heightened by a small applicant pool, lack of experience, and insufficient training or technical skills among candidates. Despite this, the future of the solar industry looks promising, driven strongly by the transformative impact of the Inflation Reduction Act. However, to embrace and benefit from this growth, businesses must develop a pipeline of highly skilled candidates and employees and adopt strategic workforce development plans, with a strong focus on training and recruiting the workforce. This effort will help meet the industry's demands but also ensure that clean energy job opportunities are accessible on a larger scale. For job seekers, clean energy offers attractive career options and competitive wages for people across all skill levels and educational backgrounds.

 

Hiring Opportunities

Addressing current and future workforce gaps in the solar industry requires detailed insights into the demographics and needs of the energy transition. Talent from outside the energy sector is often brought into the industry, however this process involves understanding the essential skills for individual roles through skills mapping. This approach goes beyond traditional job descriptions and requires outlining the specific skills required for each role and identifying where these skills can be sourced from. The scarcity of experienced talent is a common challenge, and relevant progression pathways should be in place for both office-based and on-site roles to ensure career development opportunities for all.

Retaining workers in the solar industry strongly depends also on offering benefits and flexibility. Providing healthcare, parental and other flexible leave policies, and opportunities for remote work where possible are important strategies. Additionally, creating opportunities for workforce re-entry through part-time and contract work can help generational industry loyalty like the one in the fossil fuel industry.

To bridge this skills gap, companies should implement standardized in-house training procedures. Some firms have established internal training centers to enhance education and develop technical and research skills. For example, Svea Solar opened three such centers in Sweden, Spain, and Germany in 2022, resulting in 600 fully up-skilled solar employees. However, challenges like lack of pay during training and up-skilling are crucial to address when creating training programs. Incorporating learning processes into corporate values is a strategic move for companies, as it ensures that each stage of development is a learning opportunity, helping maintain accumulated knowledge to fight back against skills shortages.

A dynamic recruitment strategy is also key to hiring success, particularly in a market suffering from these skill shortages. Partnering with a recruitment specialist with a proven track record can be pivotal for success, as they possess extensive networks of key industry professionals which facilitates the placement of skilled solar talent.

As a global renewable energy recruitment company with a team of experts dedicated to the USA market, we are committed to connecting the best talent with rewarding career opportunities in the renewable energy sector, including in solar energy. We offer tailored solutions to meet your needs and always strive to create the perfect candidate-client match. Beyond recruitment, we continually support organizations by helping them better understand their needs, create attractive packages and benchmark salaries to position themselves competitively and develop effective hiring strategies. Our consultative approach ensures comprehensive support for all your recruitment, staffing and growth needs and ambitions.

Click here to learn more about our USA renewable energy recruitment services and reach out to our lovely team of experts. We are always ready to assist you. 

Recent news and views

Emerging Renewable Energy Technologies in Spain

Sophie Rappaz

Stay up-to-date with Spain's advancements in BESS, Biomass and Hydrogen.

How is the USA driving change with Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS)?

Sophie Rappaz

With current renewable energy advancements, the USA is becoming a key player in the global renewable energy journey. Discover how this nation is driving change with BESS.

Looking for renewable energy recruitment services in the USA? Frequently Asked Questions Answered.

Oliver Hastie

Working in renewable energy recruitment in the USA, we are often asked how we succeed at finding highly specialized talent in a competitive and candidate-short market.

 

Emerging Renewable Energy Technologies in Spain

Sophie Rappaz

Stay up-to-date with Spain's advancements in BESS, Biomass and Hydrogen.

How is the USA driving change with Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS)?

Sophie Rappaz

With current renewable energy advancements, the USA is becoming a key player in the global renewable energy journey. Discover how this nation is driving change with BESS.

Looking for renewable energy recruitment services in the USA? Frequently Asked Questions Answered.

Oliver Hastie

Working in renewable energy recruitment in the USA, we are often asked how we succeed at finding highly specialized talent in a competitive and candidate-short market.

 

Emerging Renewable Energy Technologies in Spain

Sophie Rappaz

Stay up-to-date with Spain's advancements in BESS, Biomass and Hydrogen.

How is the USA driving change with Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS)?

Sophie Rappaz

With current renewable energy advancements, the USA is becoming a key player in the global renewable energy journey. Discover how this nation is driving change with BESS.

Looking for renewable energy recruitment services in the USA? Frequently Asked Questions Answered.

Oliver Hastie

Working in renewable energy recruitment in the USA, we are often asked how we succeed at finding highly specialized talent in a competitive and candidate-short market.

 

Sign up to our newsletter

Jobs, insights, resources and more. A monthly update, straight to your inbox.