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Report: N.C. ranks 9th for solar jobs

Solar panels soak in the sunlight in Vermont, where a commitment to renewable energy has created a job-producing boom.
Solar panels soak in the sunlight in Vermont, where a commitment to renewable energy has created a job-producing boom. AP

North Carolina’s 5,950 jobs in the solar industry ranked 9th nationally last year, a new report says.

The nonprofit Solar Foundation counted 208,859 solar jobs across the U.S., more than double the number of five years earlier, in its 2015 census. Solar workers outnumbered those in the dwindling coal sector, the report said.

California led the list with more than 75,000 of those jobs, while North Carolina narrowly trailed Florida in the Southeast. South Carolina’s 1,764 jobs ranked it second-highest nationally in job growth.

Solar installers earned a median wage of $20 an hour in 2014, the report said, compared with $17.09 for the total workforce.

North Carolina’s total green energy industry, including companies focused on energy efficiency and wind, added 3,159 jobs last year and took in $7 billion in revenue, the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association reported in January.

Rapidly falling prices for solar panels, coupled with state and federal tax credits and state renewable energy mandates, account for solar’s rapid rise in North Carolina and nationally.

North Carolina legislators let a state tax credit expire last year, however, and might alter a 2007 green-energy mandate that created a market for the utility-scale solar farms that dominate the state.

The Solar Foundation counts nearly 10,000 U.S. solar companies and says solar panels help power more than 5 million homes.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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