Here's good news on two fronts - the environment and the job market.
The number of solar jobs in Minnesota has more than doubled since 2015, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2018 released last week by The Solar Foundation.
Solar jobs in the state increased by 8 percent last year, even as solar employment nationwide declined by 3.2 percent compared to 2017. Minnesota now ranks 15th in the nation for total solar jobs, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Solar is among the fastest-growing job sectors in the state, with "solar panel installer" the fastest-growing job in Minnesota last year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"I'm proud that Minnesota continues to be a clean energy leader in the Midwest," said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz in a news release reacting to the solar news. "While our solar workforce continued to grow last year, we need to do even more to develop and deploy renewable energy and continue to build a strong clean energy economy in Minnesota."
Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley, whose agency administers the state's energy policies and programs, was also upbeat: "Minnesota's commitment to a vibrant clean energy economy is creating new jobs and business opportunities while helping our environment," he said. "We can expect even more solar growth thanks to declining prices, technological innovation, rising demand from both consumers and businesses, and forward-looking public policies."
Kelley added that solar growth in Minnesota is supported by state policies like the Solar Energy Standard, which requires investor-owned utilities to obtain 1.5 percent of their electricity sales from solar by 2020, with a goal of 10 percent by 2030.
Solar-related jobs in Minnesota increased for the fourth straight year. Here's the breakdown: 2015 - 1,995 jobs; 2016 - 2,872; 2017 - 4,256 and 2018 - 4,602.
The jobs include manufacturing, sales and distribution, project development, installation, operations and maintenance, the commerce department reported.
According to The Solar Foundation, solar job growth slowed nationwide in 2018 because of uncertainty about pending tariffs on imported solar modules and cells. The uncertainty resulted in postponement of some solar projects or scaled-back installations during the first three quarters of 2018, the foundation said.
Nationally, the solar industry has grown dramatically in both jobs and added capacity over the past decade as installation costs have plummeted from about $6.65 per watt in 2010 to $2.89 per watt in 2018 for residential systems. National solar employment grew by 159 percent from 2010 to 2018.
The U.S. has 242,343 solar workers, defined as those who spend 50 percent or more of their time on solar-related work.
"Despite two challenging years, the long-term outlook for this industry remains positive as even more Americans turn to low-cost solar energy and storage solutions to power their homes and businesses," said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. "However, it will take exceptional leadership at the federal, state and local levels to spur this growth and address the urgent challenge of climate change."
Luecke added that expanding solar energy and storage across America will create high-quality jobs, reduce carbon emissions, boost local economies and build resilient and adaptive communities.
The National Solar Jobs Census is based on a survey of solar establishments conducted between September and October 2018. The report is available at www.solarjobscensus.org.