These systems, now totaling 3.3 gigawatts of power, were installed in 2012; enough to power a half-million homes, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association. The industry now employs 119,000 workers, an increase of 13 percent from 2011. The 76 percent increase in available power, along with the jobs being created as a result, have not necessarily translated into a financial and industrial coup d’etat for solar energy.
Several companies, large and small, have been forced to file bankruptcy as a result of declining prices for solar equipment and the subsequent contraction of profit margins. The lower prices can be credited (or blamed, depending on your viewpoint) on solar producers in China, who pass along cheap labor to the price of the finished products. Still, some of China’s largest solar panel makers are also filing for bankruptcy.
Fallout From Bankruptcies
Solopower, headquartered in San Jose, is the latest casualty in a string of solar companies that received federal subsidies, yet is still filing for bankruptcy. The company announced it will file bankruptcy, but did not indicate how many workers would lose their jobs as a result. The Daily Caller estimates the number of solar companies that have filed for bankruptcy is more than 50, despite all of them receiving federal funds.
It is impossible to know the exact number of jobs that will be lost as a result of bankruptcies, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics no longer tracks green jobs in America. The government grants were meant to create jobs and reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil. But it has, so far, only created jobs that are subsequently lost when a company goes under. The U.S. continues to import more solar panels from China, while gas prices have finally steadied after rising everyday from late January to late February.
The macroeconomic effects do not tell the full story of what is happening on Main Street. Those who have lost their jobs are not only contributing to the rise in unemployment claims, but are forced to apply for a cash advance or another provider to cover immediate expenses.
Solar is Still Beneficial
Despite all the issues within the industry, solar power is still a very good investment for home owners. Residents who install solar before the end of 2016 will receive a personal federal tax credit of 30 percent, on top of any municipal and state incentives. The amount of money you can save each year on utility bills varies, depending on the system you install and the area which you live.
Solar is becoming more affordable with each passing year. It is also becoming one of the most volatile industries to grow a career.