Despite concerns about the decline in New Jersey's solar market, a new study found the Garden State added jobs in the sector last year and remains near the top nationally in total employment and solar capacity.
The report by the Solar Foundation found New Jersey's solar industry employed 6,500 people in 2013, up from 5,700 in 2012. That places the state third in the country in workers behind California (47,223) and Arizona (8,558).
The National Solar Jobs Census 2013, released Tuesday by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, said the solar industry now supports more U.S. workers than ever. The industry employs some 142,700 workers, representing growth of nearly 20 percent from 2012.
It also comes after a year in which New Jersey's decade-old solar market appeared to be falling on hard times. Driven by government incentives and requirements that power companies include renewable energy in their portfolios, the state became a hotbed for solar projects that generated the power and allowed the suppliers to buy credits from homes businesses that set up the installations.
Supply caught up with the enormous demand about two years ago, causing a free fall in the prices of the credits — known as SRECs, or solar renewable energy certificates — and pushing lawmakers to try to revive demand.
That spelled trouble for what was once one of New Jersey's fastest-growing industries, but SREC prices reportedly stabilized last year, and new projects were coming online through the first two quarters.
That seemed to be reflected in Tuesday's report by the Solar Foundation, which also said New Jersey ranks third in installed solar capacity.
The foundation notes it cannot conduct a census in each individual state, but it has received internally generated job figures since 2010.
All told, California, Arizona, New Jersey and Massachusetts account for nearly 50 percent of the total solar jobs in the U.S.
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