As the moniker would indicate, the Sunshine State is emerging as a leader in solar energy and jobs, adding more than 1,700 new jobs – a 21 percent jump – in 2018 over the prior year. This jump represents the largest number of new solar jobs in the United States, whereas several states saw a decline in solar jobs.
The Solar Foundation, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit dedicated to advancing the use of solar and solar-compatible technologies worldwide, attributed uncertainty with regard to tariff policy at the federal level and policy challenges and difficult business climates at the state level to the declines in most states. However, in a recent press release, The Solar Foundation stated that “in other states [like Florida], supportive policies and the rapidly declining cost of solar technologies helped drive an increase in employment in 2018.”
The Jacksonville region is seeing a significant number of these jobs and tremendous growth in the industry. The announcement of JinkoSolar, the largest solar panel manufacturer in the world, to the market will bring 200 jobs and more than $50 million in capital investment to the region. The company plans to hold its grand opening of their first U.S. facility to Cecil Commerce Center on Jacksonville’s Westside next week.
In addition, regional utility companies JEA and Florida Power & Light (FPL) are committed to solar power as well. JEA plans to increase its solar capacity by 350 percent up to 300 MW by the end of 2022 with five new solar facilities giving Jacksonville more solar generation within the city limits than any other U.S. city.
FPL has 18 major solar plants in Florida, including the Coral Farms and Horizon Solar Energy Centers in Putnam County. The combined solar farms make Putnam County the largest collection of solar farms in Northeast Florida to date.