Last year, the solar industry employed more Americans (373,807) than coal (160,119), while wind power topped 100,000 jobs.
However, by reporting that the solar industry employs lots of Americans, more than twice as many as the number of coal miners and utility workers at electric power plants using coal, is only telling a small part of of the story reports Mark Perry. 1
To start, despite a huge workforce of almost 400,000 solar workers, that sector produced an insignificant share, less than 1 percent of the electric power generated in the United States last year.
In contrast, it took about the same number of natural gas workers (398,235) last year to produce more than one-third of US electric power, or 37 times more electricity than solar’s minuscule share of 0.90 percent. And with only 160,000 coal workers (less than half the number of workers in either solar or gas), that sector produced nearly one-third (almost as much as gas) of US electricity last year.
In 2016, the coal sector generated 79 times more electric power per worker than the solar industry. 1
The reason that the solar workforce has been increasing so rapidly (25 percent gain last year) despite its dismal record of worker productivity and minuscule share of US electric power is that government policies have subsidized the solar industry nearly 350 times more than fossil fuels per unit of electricity production.
Comparing solar with nuclear, Stan Jakuba says, “An employee in a nuclear power plant produces 200 kW, in solar plants 15 kW. Both employees are probably earning the same salary and benefits but there are more than 100 times more employees per unit of electricity in solar employment that, furthermore, produces an unsteady flow of electricity.” 2
The United States invested $270 billion in renewable energy in 2014, including annual solar subsidies of $39 billion. This is among the highest in the world. 3
Yet The Wall Street Journal announced in September 2016 that venture capitalists lost half of the $25 billion they pumped into start ups of wind and solar between 2006 and 2011. They are no longer supporting wind and solar because they don’t work as advertised. Almost all investment is now being made by federal and state governments by making outrageously false promises to taxpayers.
Wind and solar energy are not cheaper than fossil fuels in the real world. Quite the opposite reports Bjorn Lomborg. He says that wind and solar will be trivial contributions to global energy for the next quarter century. The International Energy Agency estimates that today just about 0.5 percent of global energy comes from solar and wind. Even in 2040, even if everyone does everything they’ve promised at the Paris Climate Summit, the world will still get just 2.4% of its energy from solar and wind. 4
Still, it will cost a fortune. In 2016 the world spent about $106 billion on subsidies for solar and wind, and even by 2040 they will not be cheaper than fossil fuels—we will still have to pay $84 billion in subsidies annually. The International Energy Agency estimates that even by 2040, renewables will, on average, be more expensive both in the developed and developing world than any other energy source like oil, gas, nuclear, coal and hydro,4
Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology. He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.Commenting Policy
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