Solar employment increased by more than 51,000 workers, a 25% increase over 2015, according to the report. Solar industry employment has nearly tripled since the first National Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010 — rising at least 20% annually for the past four years.
Along with growth in solar and other forms of renewables, energy storage is a rapidly growing industry, comprising 90,831 jobs — of which 47,634 are focused on battery storage.
Battery storage can smooth the intermittent nature of solar and wind power, enabling a more consistent supply of energy. Lithium-ion and flow batteries can also be charged by solar energy or wind during the daytime for use at night. Similarly, storage systems can store solar or grid-provided energy when electricity rates are low and use it or sell it back to the grid when rates are high during peak business hours.
The Solar Foundation projects there will be 27,000 new solar and energy storage jobs by 2021. The projection envisions 9,000 storage jobs and another 18,000 solar jobs that would not materialize without the added value of co-locating with storage, the report said.
Outside Reno, Nevada, Tesla’s Gigafactory is now producing the first of what is expected to be 500,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.
Tesla’s battery systems include a consumer-grade battery — the Powerwall line — that stores up to 7 kilowatt hours (kWh) of power and costs $3,000 and a commercial battery system called the Powerpack, which can can store 200kWh of power. Powerpacks can be daisy-chained to create enough storage for even small cities, Tesla has claimed. The full price of the Powerpack is available on Tesla’s website and will combine the battery, inverters and cabling/site support hardware.