WASHINGTON — The national trade association for the solar industry expects the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will stunt installations of new panels across the country and lead to thousands of job losses in Colorado.
The report from the Solar Energy Industries Association estimates Colorado companies will shed 2,387 jobs by June, or approximately 30% of the state’s workforce, and lose out on installing new panels to generate 33 megawatts in the second quarter of the year, amounting to a 42% decline in growth.
Colorado had 7,775 employees in the solar sector at the end of 2019, according to a report from environmental group E2.
Nationwide, SEIA estimates 113,267 industry employees will lose their jobs, bringing estimated employment down to 2014 levels, and 1,725 megawatts of solar power will not be installed within the quarter.
Mike Kruger, president and CEO of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association, told BizWest Colorado’s industry has fared better because it was deemed an essential service during the initial stay-home order, whereas major markets such as California, New Jersey and other states and jurisdictions halted new installations.
Companies in the industry were able to work through an immense backlog of demand over the past several weeks, but Kruger said many were bringing in maybe one new job per every five or six they completed. That lack of new work is what’s leading to furloughs for some technically skilled installers and complete layoffs for sales and support staff.
Kruger said the financial markets remaining strong can allow some homeowners and property owners to take out loans to finance a solar project, but a lot of interest is being suppressed because of the inherent uncertainty underlying the entire American economy.
“If you had a plan to put solar on the roof that had a pay-back time of seven or nine years, but now you’re looking at trying to make sure you’re here in seven to nine months, you’re not going to make that investment,” he said. “…That’s where we’re feeling it, is in the consumer confidence.”
During the next few months, Kruger expects the industry to continue pushing local jurisdictions to use online permitting and digital inspections to speed up the time from project start to completion.
He also said his member companies are considering branching out into markets they haven’t touched before, noting that at least two have reached out to marijuana companies to supply power even though the legal landscape for doing so is murky.
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