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More jobs in solar industry in Michigan despite a decline in utility scale projects nationally

Michigan solar installation.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Michigan solar installation.

The number of jobs in solar energy went up in Michigan in 2022.

“Michigan did grow 3.3 %. Now having 4,073 jobs, more of it in the utility scale sector,” said Ed Gilliland, Senior Director of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

That’s just shy of the national average of 3.5%

Isolated, the number of jobs in the utility sector in the nation was down by 27%. The threat of new tariffs on panels and cells and other supply chain concerns led to a slowdown in large-scale solar installations, according the group’s report.

The Council expects growth will expand quickly over the next couple of years.

That loss in jobs in the utility sector was offset by an increase in the residential solar sector across the nation.

Another restraint on growth in solar was the labor shortage.

“There is considerable difficulty in the job market for solar. And, of course, they have to compete with construction and other jobs in the trades which are still pretty strong,” Gilliland explained.

Forty-four percent of solar installers said it was difficult to find workers.

The two biggest factors in whether solar installations in a state are up is the amount of sun it gets and its electricity rates. Gilliland says sunshine is not that much of an issue in Michigan. But, the state has the 11th highest electricity rates. That’s higher than all the Great Lakes states except New York.

However, Michigan ranks 24th in the nation in solar power generation. Only 1.02% of electricity generation in Michigan comes from solar energy.

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council says it expects the industry to quickly expand over the next couple years. It adds that solar panel manufacturing and production of related items is taking off and indicates Michigan is an important player in that market.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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