Michigan has the fourth-largest number of solar energy jobs in the country, according to a report released today by the Solar Foundation.
As of August, 6,300 workers in the state were spending at least half of their time designing, manufacturing, selling, installing or maintaining solar energy systems, the National Solar Jobs Census found. Only California, Pennsylvania and Texas had more workers employed in this booming sector.
On the flip side, Michigan has only 76 solar energy businesses, far fewer than many other leading states in the industry. Many of Michigan's solar jobs are generated by two large companies, Hemlock Semiconductor Group in Hemlock and United Solar in Rochester Hills.
Jennifer Alvarado, executive director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association in Dimondale, said that Michigan's high ranking in the census reflects the state's numerous efforts to become a leader in renewable energy. She has seen an increase in solar system installations in Michigan this year.
The Crash of '08 set everyone back a bit last year, but industry experts are predicting a record year for solar installation and manufacturing for 2010. Companies are struggling to fill the growing demand for qualified employees such as "solar panel installers, electricians and roofers with experience in solar installations and salespeople for solar equipment and installations". And although heavily-subsidized competition from the Chinese has slowed manufacturing across the country, there are still plans to bring manufacturing projects to Michigan. MLive's Job Search has a few examples, some we have talked about here before:
For example, last month, Dow Solar Solutions began hiring 100 full-time manufacturing employees for its solar shingle plant in Midland.
Ford Motor announced this summer that it would be joining with DTE Energy and Clairvoyant Energy to develop solar energy power systems for vehicles. Clairvoyant Energy is renovating an idled Ford plant in Wixom into a green energy park projected to create about 4,000 jobs.
Last month, Brighton-based The Green Panel, announced that Evergreen Solar, a Massachusetts-based solar manufacturer with a manufacturing plant in Midland, had made it a regional distributor for Michigan and four surrounding states. And in other good news for Michigan's solar industry, an unidentified company is seeking to install a solar panel manufacturing facility at the former Tecumseh Products Co. plant in Tecumseh.
As far as energy efficiency goes, Michigan is still in the middle of the pack at No. 27, but we have made great strides in the past year to jump up 7 spots for an honorable mention in this year's American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy 2010 Scorecard. The report focuses more on energy policy rather than hard numbers on job creation - but they also point out how good policy will lead to jobs and investment in construction and transportation, as well as how saving on energy costs frees up consumer money to spend in other areas.
The green economy is here. No more denying that fact. Make some adjustments to trade policy and we can create even more jobs. You listening, Congress?