Public News Service
Mary Kuhlman

The sun is shining on solar power in Illinois.

A new report ranks the state 12th nationally for the number of people employed in the solar industry, up from 20th in 2013. According to The Solar Foundation, 1,700 solar jobs were added last year, bringing the total to 3,800 in Illinois.

Bret Fanshaw, solar program with Environment America, says these are homegrown jobs in sectors like manufacturing and installation.

"In a lot of ways the jobs can't be outsourced because they're right here at home," he says. "You're installing them on someone's home in Chicago and so that's a job that's right here in the state of Illinois."

The Solar Jobs Census found that nationally the industry is exceeding growth expectations, adding workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy. It's estimated employment in solar has grown over 85 percent in the past five years, resulting in nearly 80,000 jobs.

Fanshaw says Illinois has strong policies contributing to the growth of solar power, including net metering which creates incentives for rooftop solar. And the new Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition is working to get the state to obtain 35 percent of its power from clean energy by 2030.

"Certainly if the state hits that by using wind, and especially solar, the employment numbers will surely grow along with the great environmental benefits that come with putting solar up by reducing our air pollution and also working to fight climate change," says Fanshaw.

Twnety-five percent of the state's energy is required to come from renewable sources under the current state Renewable Portfolio Standard. Almost half of Illinois' electricity comes from nuclear power, followed by coal, natural gas, and renewable sources.