This month, my focus is set upon two segments of the US job market — solar racking and battery energy storage. Both industries have been instrumental in building the EnergeiaWorks brand and generating revenue for our company. But sometimes I need to counter my typical optimism with a reality check.
What is the future state of solar racking manufacturing jobs in the US? Yesterday I received the official press release from Schletter outlining their chapter 11 proceedings, and since then, I have been asking myself this question repeatedly. Since I joined the industry nearly a decade ago, Schletter has always been a leader in racking solutions; and since I launched EnergeiaWorks, racking manufacturers have been a large part of our customer base. Racking is a commodity known for its already thin margins. Are the new steel and aluminum tariffs on imports designed by the administration to create manufacturing jobs in the US actually causing the demise of solar racking manufacturing jobs in the US? We don’t know the answer yet, but I can tell you for certain that hiring in racking has slowed the last 9-12 months, and this could be an indication of the future.
Are battery jobs dead before the industry really takes off? Over the last three years, I’ve helped hardware and chemical battery manufacturers, solar developers, and EPCs find the top battery energy storage talent around the globe. If you’re keeping score in storage space, you know that there are more players that have folded than there are states with fully completed projects. ESA boasts a pipeline of 35GW of battery projects, but how much of these will come to fruition? Trust me, I want to the industry to succeed. I’m vested in this field and continue to look toward our future, but it seems the consensus around the ESA Conference was in conservatism, not optimism. Energy storage jobs were up 284% in 2016 but only 47% in 2017. I’m curious to see where the 2018 numbers come in.
Our current roster of open positions (46 roles across 19 active hiring clients) has a 40% focus on operations or construction of DG/utility-scale assets, and a large portion of this uptick correlates to the current construction season. If you’re thinking about hiring an operations manager, project manager, superintendent, project engineer, or foreman, don’t wait. The competition to grab the best field talent will be strong, driving up salaries and potentially delaying your project.
Don’t let my dose of reality about racking manufacturing and battery storage muddy the overall picture of the clean energy US market. Renewable energy is growing faster than the overall economy and the unemployment rate for renewable energy workers is much lower than the overall workforce. EnergeiaWorks is a proud sponsor of the Solar Jobs Census conducted by the Solar Foundation. The 2017 census showed solar jobs were up in 29 states and, for the first time, wind jobs have exceeded 100,000 in the US.
If you need assistance with your Q2 hiring strategy, please reach out to us to schedule a virtual meeting.
As active event sponsors, you can find EnergeiaWorks hosting Renewables UnWind networking evenings at the Midwest Solar Expo in Minneapolis (May 1) and WindPower in Chicago (May 8). If you’re attending one of these events, feel free to schedule a meeting with us on site.
All are welcome to join us at the Renewables Unwind NYC event (May 10) with co-sponsor Sive, Paget & Riesel. And keep an eye out for details about our Special Summer Solstice party in Jersey City (June 21).
William V Liuzza
William V Liuzza