Photo: AP

Robots will take all our jobs one day. Until then, we’re stuck working and in the coming decade, the percentage of Americans finding employment in two fields in particular will explode: wind and solar energy.

The Trump administration may be doing its best to rain on renewables’ parade, but it appears the market has other plans. According to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, solar panel installer and wind turbine service technician are slated to be the the two fastest growing jobs in the country.


Solar installation jobs are expected to grow 105% while wind turbine technician jobs will grow 96% by 2026. That’s a huge leap compared to overall U.S. jobs, which are expected to rise 7% over that period. They’re even head and shoulders above the other 10 fastest growing jobs on the list, most of which are in healthcare (yay, aging population!).

Projections for the 10 fastest growing occupations through 2026. Image: Bureau of Labor Statistics

California has by far the largest number of solar workers in the U.S., but the surge won’t just be isolated to deep blue states. Of the 10 states that saw the biggest growth in solar jobs from 2015 to 2016, eight were states that broke for Donald Trump in the presidential election according to data from the Solar Foundation.

Meanwhile, Texas generates the most wind power of any state in the country by a long shot, underscoring that renewables growth isn’t driven by those uppity coastal elitists strapping solar panels to their Teslas to save the climate. Rather, the explosive growth of solar and wind jobs is due largely to the economic reality that renewables are increasingly competing with fossil fuels on cost.


The big percentage uptick in the Bureau of Labor Statistics is partly due to the relatively small number of installers, which sits at 11,300. But that number only tells part of the story.

“The Solar Foundation’s Solar Jobs Census places any employee of an installer company in the ‘installer’ category while the BLS considers just those physically getting on roofs to install panels,” the Solar Energy Industries Association, another trade group, wrote in a statement.


Using the foundation’s definition, the number of workers in the installation field swells to 137,133. Factoring in sales, manufacturing and other positions and the solar industry employment figure swells to 260,077 as of last year. That number is nearly triple what it was in 2010.

“Perhaps the larger point is that solar is a leading driver of American job growth,” Avery Palmer, a spokesperson for the Solar Foundation, told Earther. “Jobs in the installation sector increased 14% from 2015 to 2016, and the overall solar workforce increased by 25%. In 2016, one out of every 50 new U.S. jobs was in solar.”


Wind energy has similarly enjoyed explosive growth beyond turbine service technicians. The industry employs 102,500 people as of 2016 with Texas accounting for roughly a quarter of all people employed. Those ranks will continue to grow along with technician gigs, too.

This sea change is happening as the Trump administration tries to make coal stay competitive with renewables and roll back climate regulations. But despite those efforts, the economic writing on the wall is becoming clearer everyday as is the moral and fiscal imperative to address the cause of climate change.


Managing editor, Earther

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