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Solar Industry Fighting To Help Lead Economic Recovery

Borrego Springs Solar Plant generating power in the hot desert valley on June 1, 2016.
Kris Arciaga
Borrego Springs Solar Plant generating power in the hot desert valley on June 1, 2016.

The coronavirus pandemic snuffed out more than five years of job growth in the nation’s solar industry and the job losses are happening faster than the rest of the economy.

However, industry officials say there is hope.

The solar industry officials predicted there would be more than 300,000 people on their payrolls by the end of the year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drained the light out of that forecast.

VIDEO: Solar Industry Fighting To Help Lead Economic Recovery

“COVID really hit us hard,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar and Supply Association. “I know it hit a lot of businesses hard but we lost, almost overnight, 21% of our workforce. That’s around 12,000 people that were furloughed or laid off as a result of COVID.”

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Many of the jobs that disappeared in the past two months are construction jobs.

“What we call boots on the roof,” Del Chiaro said. “The guys and gals that go out and climb up on roofs and actually do the installation work building what I call our clean energy future. Every roof at a time. One roof at a time.”

Del Chiaro is calling on government officials to let the solar industry lead the economic recovery.

She said there are a number of different strategies, including extending federal tax credits, removing regulatory barriers, and pushing for the installation of a million solar fed batteries.

“The government, local government, state government and federal government are all going to be trying to solve the issue of how do we get our economy moving again. How do we get people back to work,” said Abby Hopper, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

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Hopper regularly lobbies for the industry on Capitol Hill and she said the jobs can come back quickly if lawmakers support the industry.

“We have really accelerated online permitting, instant permitting, remote permitting,” Hopper said. “Actually, I am hopeful (that) will continue past this crisis and make that process much more efficient.”

The industry can restart quickly and a solar led economic recovery could translate into a cleaner energy future, according to Hopper.

Solar Industry Fighting To Help Lead Economic Recovery
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.