Employment in the solar energy sector in Georgia fell by 14 percent as utility-scale projects stalled amid an uncertain global trade environment, according to the Solar Foundation.
Georgia’s drop was much steeper than the 3.2 percent nationwide decline to 242,343 jobs from 250,0271, marking the second year in a row solar jobs fell after more than doubling between 2010-16, the foundation reported in its National Solar Jobs Census.
Georgia was hit harder than other states, given that most of the slowdown came from dampened growth in installed capacity. Though not known for its progressive stances on renewable energies, Georgia was nonetheless one of the top-10 states for utility-scale projects.
Solar panels have been in the crosshairs of trade hawks in recent years, creating a rift between those who want to boost domestic manufacturing jobs in the sector and those who believe cheaper foreign-made panels benefit the industry overall.
President Trump slapped 30 percent tariffs on foreign-made panels in early 2018 in response to a complaint from bankrupt Georgia solar manufacturer Suniva Inc. The levy will fall gradually to 15 percent over four years, but the effects are being felt now.
The association, which publishes a state-by-state “census” of solar jobs, has opposed such moves, saying most jobs — and the most resilient jobs — in the sector are at the point of installation, not in the making of the panels. It predicted that the tariff alone would kill off 23,000 jobs.
As of the end of 2017 in Georgia, about two-thirds of the 4,310 jobs in the sector were installation jobs, versus just 18 percent in manufacturing. The state’s overall number of solar-backed jobs fell to 3,696 in 2018. Georgia is home to 238 solar companies.
Not everything is looking dim: The foundation predicts that nationally, jobs will recover next year, with surveys projecting a 7 percent gain.
Learn more about Georgia solar jobs here: https://www.solarstates.org/#state/georgia/counties/solar-jobs/2017