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Is there work as a solar installer? Advocates say future is bright

Companies installing solar panels see payroll growth ahead, with or without subsidy help.

Can the Southern Tier grow jobs with the sun? Advocates of solar power think so, and the handful of companies venturing into the emerging solar design and installation business say that’s what they’re doing.

The number of solar-related jobs in the United States grew from about 25,000 in 2007 to 175,000 in 2014, according to estimates by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Solar Foundation.

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And for every megawatt of new photovoltaic capacity installed, or about 120 houses worth, a solar-industry rule of thumb is 10 jobs are created, though that’s more likely to be seven or eight locally because the panels aren’t manufactured here, said Adam Flint, program manager at the community non-profit organization Southern Tier Solar Works.

Flint’s organization will host a meeting Tuesday evening at the state office building in Binghamton on promoting solar electricity’s economic-benefits potential. Assemblywoman Donna Lopardo, D-Endwell, and a panel of people in the industry will discuss state and federal incentives and tax credits available to homeowners and small-business people for installing systems that create electricity from the sun. Jobs are a big part of the push.

“It’s obvious: Hitch our economic wagon to the sun,” said Gay E. Canough, founder of ETM Solar Works of Endicott.

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Conough’s company employs 12: two sales people, two office staff and eight installers, who can make anywhere from $12 to $22 per hour depending on experience and job level, with crew chiefs making the most.

She is working to hire a part-time social media marketing person right now and expects to need another installer in the spring.

Nationally, the solar industry is growing 30 to 40 percent a year, according to Conough.

Regionally, it may be growing faster. Flint is based in Binghamton but works across a broad swath of the Southern Tier and points north and west to Ithaca, where residential and small-commercial solar power has grown faster, for a possible glimpse into the region’s energy-economy future.

Read the rest of the story at Press Connects