The Long Island Solar Farm (LISF) -- currently the largest solar photovoltaic power plant in the Eastern United States -- generates enough renewable energy to power approximately 4,500 homes. LISF is located at Brookhaven National Laboratory. | Photo courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Last week's news that U.S. solar industry jobs continue to expand at a double-digit annual growth rate shows that efforts to grow the solar market and make solar energy more accessible to all Americans are working. The solar industry continues to be an engine of job growth -- creating jobs six times faster than the overall job market.  

The latest U.S. figures from The Solar Foundation, an independent research organization, show a 13 percent growth in high-skilled solar jobs spanning installations, sales, marketing, manufacturing and software development -- bringing total direct jobs to 119,000 in the sector.

The new solar job figures reflect a stronger demand for clean energy generation, a steady decline in solar hardware costs and strategic investments made by the Energy Department in solar research and development over a number of years. Independent analysis has shown that investments made by the Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy have accelerated the growth of the U.S. solar industry by an estimated 12 years.

The Energy Department anticipates this robust growth to continue. SunShot Vision Study projections estimate that by 2030 more than a quarter million highly-skilled solar workers will contribute to the U.S. economy. To meet the need for a growing number of solar professionals, the Department is expanding its Solar Instructor Training Network program to connect returning veterans to this high growth sector of our economy. In addition, through the SunShot Rooftop Solar Challenge, we are working with state and local officials to simplify, standardize and streamline installation processes -- including permitting and interconnection – and making it faster and easier for companies to expand to new markets and hire more employees.

As the U.S. economy continues its steady recovery, the combined and collaborative efforts of the private and public sectors will continue to boost a transition to a clean energy future.