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New Analysis Finds Virginia Could Create Over 50,000 New Jobs With Commitment to 10 percent Solar By 2023

RICHMOND, Virginia -

Today, the Sierra Club released a new report from the Solar Foundation finding that Virginia could create 50,400 new jobs if it developed enough solar energy to meet 10 percent of residents’ electricity consumption over the next five years.

The Solar Foundation conducts an annual census of solar jobs across the U.S. that provided much of the data used for the Virginia jobs analysis. The most recent National Solar Jobs Census found the state of Virginia had 3,236 solar jobs in 2016, representing a 65 percent growth from 2016.

Achieving the 10 percent goal would require the solar industry to build 15,000 megawatts of solar. At the end of 2016, Virginia had a total of just 241 MW of solar installed, representing one-tenth of 1 percent of total electricity consumption.

Hitting the 2023 target would require an annual growth rate of 61 percent, well below the 87 percent growth rate averaged by California and North Carolina over the past 6 years.

The projections assume growth occurs across all sectors of the solar industry, including utility-scale, commercial, residential, and manufacturing. On average, residential and commercial rooftop solar create more jobs per megawatt than utility solar because they are more labor-intensive.

“Nationwide, the solar market was a 23 billion dollar industry in 2016,” Karla Loeb, Vice President of Policy and Development for Charlottesville-based Sigora Solar, said. “One out of every 50 new jobs in America was created by the solar industry last year. Sigora has been part of that. We have doubled in size in the past year and now employ 80 people in the Commonwealth.”

“Ten percent solar is a modest goal to shoot for given the strong economics of solar and the demand we are seeing from customers,” Tony Smith, President of Staunton-based Secure Futures LLC, said. “Virginia has been held back by restrictive policies that have made it a ‘dark state.’ Reforming our policies would lead to a lot more economic development around solar. ”

“The economics have never been better for solar in Virginia than they are right now,” Andrew Skinner, Project Manager at Sterling-based Prospect Solar, said. “Prospect Solar has grown from two  employees in 2010 to 16 full time employees today. Roles such as electricians, skilled labor, engineers, project managers, and sales people are integral to the success of each project.  We hope Virginia will commit to a rapid, sustained buildout of all sectors of the solar industry, allowing us to continue adding local jobs.”

“Local energy, local jobs, local investment,” Patrick Feucht, Manager of Baseline Solar in Blacksburg, Virginia, said. “Our workforce is made up of local people—three of us went to Virginia Tech, one went to New River Community College, which has an Alternative Energy Program. An increase in demand of this scale would mean we’d hire more local people.”

“Residential and commercial rooftop solar has created most of the solar jobs in Virginia to date, and it has to be a part of the push to 10 percent,” Sue Kanz, President of Virginia Beach-based Solar Services, said. “As we know, rooftop solar creates more jobs than utility solar, and these are good-paying, local jobs for local people. That’s one reason Virginia should lift the outdated 1 percent cap on net-metered solar, and leave the market open to anyone who wants to invest in their own home-grown energy supply."

“We believe, as Virginians, that we can solve our energy challenges,” Paul Risberg, President of Altenergy, said. “Ours is a Virginia company founded and based in Charlottesville, and we are committed to building Virginia-based energy production facilities that benefit all Virginians. But the fact is that over the past few years our growth has come from business in other states. We have 26 employees in Virginia now, and we could increase that dramatically if Virginia promotes solar through policy changes that incentivize business owners to invest, allows competition, and supports the environmental message."

“Science tells us that avoiding the worst effects of climate change means we have to transition completely away from fossil fuels on a very short timeline,” Kate Addleson, Director of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, said. “Fortunately, solar is now the cheapest source of new electricity in Virginia. But unfortunately, Dominion Energy Virginia is proposing to build only 240 MW per year, which would leave us more than 13,000 MW short. So even though 10 percent strikes most people as a modest goal, it will take leadership from our government to get there.”

The report is available at http://virginia.solarjobscensus.org

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The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world.

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