Strong federal and state support, declining system costs, and growing public and private sector demand for clean energy have all contributed to a rapid increase in solar deployment over the past decade. According to the Solar Futures Study, in order to achieve the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of an inclusive, equitable transition to a fully decarbonized electricity system by 2035, the solar workforce will need to grow from approximately 250,000 workers in 2021 to between 500,000 and 1,500,000 workers by 2035. These jobs should be accessible to workers from all backgrounds, provide competitive wages and benefits, and offer opportunities for union membership.
Solar workforce research and development at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports efforts to prepare and sustain this skilled and diverse clean energy workforce. Workforce development initiatives funded by SETO include online and in-person training and education programs, work-based learning opportunities such as internships and apprenticeships, collegiate competitions, certification programs, and support services such as career counseling, mentorship, and job readiness. Program performance metrics are analyzed to assess the impact of different workforce strategies and partnerships, which can then inform target metrics and intended outcomes for future programming. Additionally, SETO solicits stakeholder feedback and analyzes industry growth and workforce trends in order to make informed decisions related to the solar workforce.
Through these efforts, SETO supports a clean energy workforce ecosystem that provides accessible and affordable learning opportunities and pathways to stable careers and economic prosperity. A well-trained workforce supports solar energy deployment that will safely and reliably generate power now and for decades to come. Learn more about SETO’s goals.
Solar Workforce Research Topics
Each SETO research topic areas targets an essential segment of the clean energy workforce and its unique training and skills requirements. Just as solar installation professionals must be trained to properly design, install, and maintain solar energy systems, power systems engineers must be trained to successfully integrate these new distributed resources into the grid and drive innovation. Additionally, many related professionals, such as architects and code enforcement officials, play a key role in easing solar adoption and ensuring system safety and integrity.
Solar Workforce Initiatives
SETO has supported a variety of workforce initiatives to assess and address the needs of a growing clean energy economy:
- Advancing Equity Through Workforce Partnerships funding program – facilitates the rapid deployment of solar energy technologies while supporting an inclusive workforce with opportunities for union membership.
- Solar Ready Vets – connects veterans and transitioning military service members with career training, professional development, fellowships, and employment opportunities in the solar industry
- Expanding the Solar Workforce and Digital Adaptation Training for DER on the Grid - develops solar training for a variety of participants while also preparing the utility industry for a digital future and modern grid with high penetration levels of solar and other distributed energy resources
- Solar District Cup – annual collegiate competition challenging multidisciplinary student teams to design and model optimized distributed energy systems for a campus or urban district.
- Education Materials for Professional Organizations Working on Efficiency and Renewable Energy Developments (EMPOWERED) funding program – provides training and educational resources for first responders, safety officials, and building managers and owners working with distributed energy resources.
To view additional SETO-funded solar workforce projects, search the Solar Energy Research Database. Reports resulting from research projects can be found on the Office of Science and Technical Information (OSTI) website.
- Summary: Workforce Request for Information (RFI) and Convenings – SETO summary of feedback from industry, academia, government agencies, worker organizations (including unions), and others on solar industry employment needs and the perceived value of different workforce development programs, training strategies, and tools to support the development of a diverse and skilled clean energy workforce.
- IREC Annual Solar Jobs Census
- IREC Solar Industry Diversity Study
- 2021 U.S. Energy Employment Report
- BLS Solar and Wind Occupations: A Look at the Next Decade
- DOE Launches Initiatives to Accelerate Solar Deployment in Underserved Communities
- SETO Fellowships and Research Opportunities
- Federal Energy and Manufacturing Workforce Training Program