The number of workers within the state’s solar industry grew by 44 percent, or nearly 900 jobs, to a workforce of roughly 2,900 over the course of 2016, a report found.
 
In that same span of time, a majority of the new and existing workforce migrated from Greater Minnesota to the Twin Cities area, according to Washington D.C.-based research firm The Solar Foundation.
 
When the nonprofit conducted its Solar Jobs Census in 2015, less than a quarter of the state’s solar workers were based in Hennepin County. Now about four out of every five of those jobs are located there.
 
Most of the new jobs were in installation, largely due to the rise in residential solar projects. Nearly three-quarters of the time workers spent on projects were for residential units rather than commercial or utility-scale projects, The Solar Foundation said.
 
Of the 118 solar companies that operate in Minnesota, fewer manufacturing and sales workers are employed compared to last year. The number of project development workers, however, nearly doubled year-over-year.
 
Significant drops in the cost to manufacture renewable energy equipment led to the growth of the solar workforce. Beth Soholt, director of St. Paul-based nonprofit Wind on the Wires, told TCB last year that solar costs have declined 53 percent since the start of the decade.
 
Support has also come from Minnesota lawmakers, particularly with its Renewable Portfolio Standard policy, which requires public utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity sales through renewable resources by 2025.
 
Together, Soholt said these “provide powerful signals to businesses that are looking to make investments that a state is open for business.”

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