Alternative Energy on the Rise: Solar Power Workers Now Outnumber Coal Miners


A discussion on alternative energy can often lead to eye rolls from conservatives who seem to think that wind turbines and solar panels are powered by naked people eating granola. But regardless of whether or not you might think of alternative energy models as hippie-powered, new reports find there are now more solar jobs in the U.S. than those being provided by the nation’s coal miners

According to the Solar Foundation’s new interactive map, you can view state by state just exactly where the solar jobs are (more than 43,000 in California!). The map states that nearly 120,000 jobs can now be credited to solar energy—a growth of more than 13 percent last year. CNN reports “there are more solar energy workers in Texas than there are ranchers. In California, they outnumber actors, and nationwide, America has more solar workers than coal miners.”

Even less sunny states, including New Jersey and Michigan are now reporting an increase in the number of solar jobs. The Solar Foundation reports that even though the states may be lacking in the sunshine department on par with states like California and Arizona, the fact that they have favorable tax and regulatory policies make them appealing locations for solar developers.

Solar workers are being paid better than the average national wage, too, reports the Solar Foundation. A solar worker can earn nearly $38,000 a year, which is slightly more than what the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports as the national average wage of $34,750.

The benefits to solar power are numerous, most notably that the sun is a sustainable resource unlike our dependence on limited resources of fossil fuels. Solar creates less pollution (as does wind-power) than conventional energy procurement methods.

Another notable benefit to solar is that virtually any structure can be outfitted to generate its own solar power. This can help to take pressure off the nation’s power grids, decrease utility bills and provide clean energy at the same time.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Wayne National Forest

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.