Seeing how it is almost February I am a little late for my 2015 predictions, but I am going to make them anyway.
First, there is no doubt there will be further consolidation in solar this year. China has already announced that they would like to consolidate the number of solar manufacturers over the next few years and there will certainly be a few manufactures that can’t compete or decide to leave the US market.
Even as the number of players whittles down, the top line numbers for solar continue to grow. Across the board we are seeing signs that 2015 will be a strong year for hiring in solar. Energy storage will make a big step forward this year, but I don’t expect to see a significant increase in hiring yet.
The national unemployment rate currently sits somewhere around 5.6% and Greentech Media recently reported that jobs in solar are growing 20 times faster than the economy as a whole http://ow.ly/HEmhM and that we will install about 13 GW of solar over the next two years. http://ow.ly/HEmXV.
So far this year we are seeing an emphasis on Engineering Project Management and Construction Management to get contracted projects developed and installed. As the ITC is set to step down at the end of 2016 there will be a big rush to get projects in the ground quickly. There continues to be strong demand for Sales and Business Development (both products and projects) in key markets like CA, NC, MA, and NY among others.
The most recent trade case did cause some hiccups last year, but we are seeing little concern in most places at this point. Most of the manufacturers we have spoken with are confident they will be able to deliver trade compliment product at competitive prices.
My Predictions for 2015:
#1: There will be a major push to hire Project Engineers, Project Managers and other technical resources to get projects completed on time and under budget
#2: More companies will enter the O&M market as we add 13 GW of solar over the next two years. This will increase the demand for O&M Managers, Field Service and other related skill sets.
#3: There will be an increase demand for Commercial Project Developers/Sales people in key markets
#4: The most recent trade dispute will have little impact on availability and price of modules in the US. US manufactures like SolarWorld and Suniva will continue to drive down their cost structures and the majority of foreign manufacturers will adapt and adapt their supply chain to become compliant.
#5: Many smaller EPCs, Developers and installers will close or be purchased as the bigger companies with more scale and efficiency drive their costs lower and squeeze out the little guys.
The next two years may be the biggest that the US has seen. A lot will change after 2016, but for now most of the companies in the industry are growing and adding in key areas to take advantage of the opportunity.