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  • Writer's picturePacific Sun Technologies

Solar Energy Might Actually Survive Trump’s Fossil Fuel Revolution

America's environmental outlook under President Trump is decidedly gloomy, but if there's a light at the end of the tunnel, it's coming from the solar energy industry.

Last year, solar energy businesses created 51,000 news jobs, amounting to 260,077 total US solar workers, which marked a growth rate nearly 17 times higher than the overall national economy. The industry's boom was a 25 percent increase over 2015, and accounted for 2 percent of all American jobs that year.

These numbers come from a study commissioned by The Solar Foundation, an independent, non-industry funded nonprofit dedicated to solar energy use. The new report is the seventh produced by the organization, and documents the largest annual growth percentage of solar jobs since 2010.

"People like solar energy because it's tangible. They can envision themselves with solar on their roofs, or maybe they have neighbors with solar," Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation, told me.

"It's not this distant, far off futuristic scenario. We have solar everywhere," she added.

Solar gains are coming at a time when America is more divided than ever. A Gallup poll last year found that only 21 percent of citizens believe we're united in our values, and the disconnect is palpable in parts of the country where protests have broken out. So renewable energy's success, which relies heavily on bipartisan buy-in, is a refreshing comparison to our current political forecast. Solar jobs exist in all 50 states, and 44 of them—red and blue, alike—experienced growth last year, according to the study.

Much of solar's growth can be attributed to installation firms. These are the folks who put panels on your roof, or set up sprawling, photovoltaic solar farms in the desert, for instance. Employing more than half of the industry's workforce, installations made up more than 35 percent of America's solar energy capacity in 2016, or 14,000 megawatts. (This is still just 1.5 percent of the nation's total electricity generating capacity, however.)