Antwain Nelson held various jobs in the construction field for several years, but the work never felt fulfilling. Then an opportunity to volunteer in low-income neighborhoods introduced him to his current job and, he says, a clear career path.
“The first day, I fell in love with it,” says Nelson, 25, an installer of solar energy systems and a lifelong resident of Washington DC. The people he works with, he says, feel “like another family to me”.
Nelson is one of thousands of new hires in the US solar industry, which has become the fastest growing sector in the energy business. Solar employment has more than doubled since 2010, reaching 209,000 employees by November 2015, according to The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit that offers research and educational programs to promote solar. The industry created about 35,000 of those jobs in 2015 alone.
In a report released in November, the foundation projects another 30,000 new jobs through the end of 2016 – a 14.7% annual increase, or 13 times faster than the overall economy.