Last month, President Trump imposed four years of tariffs, starting at 30 percent and stepping down each year. The tariffs were not as bad as some in the solar industry had feared but they are expected to weigh on the sector -- especially on utility-scale projects because of their size.
2018 looks to be better, but ...
Despite the headwinds, the businesses taking part in the Solar Census projected job growth of 5.2 percent (263,293 jobs) for 2018, citing figures that indicate more growth for the industry in the long-term.
In the past five years, the solar workforce in the U.S. increased 110 percent (16 percent annually), adding 131,000 jobs.
Twenty-nine states reported increases in solar jobs in 2017. Utah, Minnesota, Arizona and New Jersey reported the largest gains.
"We could definitely be in some choppy waters over the next year or two but the states with strong policies and strong economics should continue to do well and continue to grow," Gilliland said.
Cinnamon, whose business took part in the Solar Census, said the prospects for small, local installers is still robust but the number of bigger installers is shrinking.
"Residential solar is inherently a local business," Cinnamon said. "When you're fixing up your house, getting a roof or upgrading your kitchen, you hire a local contractor because they give you the best customer service and best price. It's the same with solar."
Information for the census came from 2,389 establishments, of which The Solar Foundation said 77 percent "completed or substantially completed" the survey. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.25 percent for the national employment numbers.
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