California has 1 in 4 U.S. solar energy jobs

One in every four solar energy jobs in America is held by a Californian, and growth in the clean-tech industry is burgeoning nationwide, a new study said.

In August, California had an estimated 25,575 solar-related jobs out of 100,237 for all 50 states, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2011. The census is scheduled for release Monday by the Solar Foundation, a research and education organization in Washington.

California’s solar jobs tally was more than four times greater than runner-up Colorado, which had 6,186 solar jobs.

The Golden State ranked first in the nation for generating electricity from both photovoltaic solar panels and concentrated solar power systems that use mirrors to create steam to run turbines, the study said.

"This report shows that the solar industry is not only creating green jobs across California but that the industry is forecast to continue growing at a much faster pace than the overall U.S. economy," said Michelle Kinman, a clean energy advocate for Environment California. "California industry and policymakers have a tremendous opportunity to build on this solid foundation and make solar a centerpiece of the state’s energy policy."

Nationally, employment in all parts of the solar industry, including manufacturing, installation, residential, commercial and large-scale power generation, grew 6.8 percent in the 12 month period ended in August. Overall U.S. job growth was less than 1 percent for the same period, the census said.

Growth is expected to accelerate 24 percent, creating 24,000 jobs, over the next year, based on a survey of solar employers.

The industry’s momentum should continue despite bad publicity from a political scandal surrounding the bankruptcy of Fremont solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, industry advocates said. The company recently closed after getting a $535-million federal loan guarantee.

"We have to look beyond the failure of one company and see the tremendous success that’s occurring here," said Arno Harris, chief executive of Recurrent Energy, a San Francisco solar developer.

David Hochschild, vice president of Fremont-based Solaria, said the technology "is on the cusp of playing a large role in mainstream markets."

How states rank

Here’s a list of the top states ranked by the number of solar industry jobs, according to the solar jobs census:

1. California 25,575
2. Colorado 6,186
3. Arizona 4,786
4. Pennsylvania 4,703
5. New York 4,279
6. Florida 4,224
7. Texas 3,346
7. Oregon 3,346
8. New Jersey 2,871
9. Massachusetts 2,395

Marc Lifsher,