RALEIGH – North Carolina’s solar industry has seen a 14.3% increase in the total number of solar jobs, year-over-year, a new report from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) found.

The state’s job growth in the sector boosted the total number of jobs in the solar energy sector to nearly 7,000 by the end of 2021, according to the report’s data, which was shared with WRAL TechWire.

Specifically, the state added 871 jobs in the sector in 2021, increasing the total number of jobs to 6,978, according to the report’s data.

That total number of solar jobs ranks 10th nationally for the total number of solar jobs in any state, while North Carolina’s population is the 9th most of any U.S. state, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

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Solar jobs help tap energy potential

“Solar energy is an economic growth engine, creating new jobs while it helps us confront the climate crisis,” said Dan Reicher, Senior Scholar, Stanford Woods Institute and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy, in the statement.  “There is vast and untapped potential to expand solar installations and related jobs across the United States, in an environmentally sustainable manner, as we help businesses and families access this renewable energy source.”

When comparing the state’s solar energy sector on the number of jobs per capita, however, North Carolina ranks 19th in the nation.

And though the state’s economy has seen an increase of 14.3% year-over-year, the state’s sector has 5,950 solar jobs in 2015, according to a spokesperson for the IREC.

That’s an increase of 1,028 jobs in the sector, or an increase of 17.3% in that time period, with most of those gains coming in 2021, according to the data set.

An earlier story from WRAL TechWire noted that the state economy added more than 10,000 clean energy jobs in 2021, with a total number of jobs by sector as follows: 8,640 in solar, 1,179 in wind, and 78,018 in energy efficiency.

NC economy added more than 10,000 clean energy jobs in 2021

Lack of diversity in solar sector

The IREC report also found that the sector has much more work to do to drive equity in the field, as nationally, just under 30% of the solar workforce in 2021 identified as women.  And just 8 percent identified as Black, while the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 12.4% of Americans identify as Black.

The report analyzes data from the U.S. Department of Energy, according to a statement from the organization.