Generation of Jobs
The U.S. was the fifth largest producer of solar panels in the world in 2016 and has created thousands of jobs in the country, according to Guardian. A 2016 Energy.gov report states that employment in the solar sector increased by 123% in five years since 2010. By 2015 there were 209,000 people employed in solar jobs. Most were small businesses engaged in installations, followed by solar designers, sales person and service professionals. The industry grew 12% faster than the average American job market, keeping the economy moving.
In 2015 coal and solar power provided 33% and less than 1% of energy, respectively. Yet, the solar industry employed three times more people than the coal industry in the same year, according to a Solar Foundation report. The number of people working in solar is higher than the number working for oil and gas plants. In fact 1.2% of all jobs in the U.S. were from the solar industry.
In 2015, 1 million people were employed in solar PV sector. Greenpeace Energy [R]Evolution considers that by 2030 this could increase to 9.7 million (p. 10). In addition 2.5 million jobs in solar thermal and 5.33 million in solar heat could also be generated (p. 11).
Funding for Research and Innovations
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been the main funding agency since 1977. Funding of more than 150 million dollars were proposed in 2006 for solar energy alone. In 2009, around 30 billion dollars were given to all renewable sources and smart grid development. Research into solar power received $310 million in 2013, and grew to $65 million in 2016. The aim has been to develop technology to improve the efficiency of solar panels, develop new solar power collectors and storage capacity and slash costs of electricity generation to make it more affordable for all. There has been rapid progress, such as:
- Research is trying to find novel photo-voltaic devices by decreasing use of expensive silicon, and experimenting with different forms and shapes of panels, bio-based materials, and panel-less solar production etc, according to MIT.
- Improving capacity of batteries to store solar energy at times of surplus for later use to increase efficiency and ensure continuous supply is another option being exploited. Lithium-ion batteries in combination with software, and new “polymer-hybrid supercapacitors” being developed would be drive down costs.
A Sunny Future
Production of energy from solar has been doubling every twenty months since 2010 according to Bloomberg. By 2050, Greenpeace Energy [R]Evolution visualizes energy being produced 100% by renewables, wherein solar power’s contribution will be 32% (p. 11). The importance of solar energy is sure to play a big role in saving the environment, helping people socially and economically, and creating jobs and research.