Among the jobs and industries most threatened by power are coal jobs. However researchers are showing that coal workers could find jobs in, well, solar power—the very thing that may have taken their jobs in the first place.
It’s undeniable that the solar industry is growing while the coal industry is shrinking. The Solar Foundation previously reported that the photovoltaic industry is hiring workers 12 times faster than the overall economy. Last November it noted that the solar industry had 208,859 solar workers. The coal industry has about 150,000 jobs remaining, Michigan Tech said although a Solar Foundation jobs census in 2014 put it at much lower, under 100,000 positions.
"Although coal investors can simply call their brokers to move their money to more profitable industries, coal workers are left with pink slips and mortgages," said Joshua Pearce, a Michigan Tech professor in materials science and engineering as well as in electrical and computer engineering. "Fortunately, the solar energy industry sector is growing at an incredible rate—and they are hiring."
Pearce and Edward Louie, of the School of Public Policy at Oregon State University (OSU) produced a study published in Energy Economics showing that coal workers can find high-quality employment in the solar photovoltaic industry. The study looked at layoffs in the coal industry over the next 15 years and found that the solar industry could absorb them. The researchers compared the salaries and skill sets of coal workers the needs of the solar power industry and estimated the cost of retraining those workers for the solar industry.
"Many of these coal miners have transferable skill sets already,” said Christopher Turek, the director of Solar Energy International. "These range from mechanical and electrical expertise, all the way to their confidence in working in a highly technical field with a strong focus on safety."
While coal workers would have to be retrained for the solar industry Pearce noted that there are numerous low-cost options for such training. Options that coal workers could pursue while still employed in the coal industry. The report in Energy Economics also includes appendices, which allow people to look up jobs and see how their existing skills in the coal industry can translate to jobs in the solar industry.Tweet