Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Solar Jobs vs. Coal Jobs

There are about 80,000 coal miners in America. Depending on who is doing the counting, there are up to 70,000 more workers involved in processing and transporting coal. Let's be generous and say there are 150,000 workers in the American coal industry.

About 174,000 Americans work in the solar industry.


G. Verloren said...

I was curious, so I quickly looked up a few figures for further comparison.

Coal jobs pay roughly $22.50 per hour on average.

Solar pays just under $20.00.

G. Verloren said...

That said, there are many, many factors in this equation. Like power production, and number of plants needed.

Coal produces 44% of our electricity, in the form of 572 plants in the US, each with an average production capacity of 547 megawatts.

Currently "utility scale" solar power produces 0.44% of total U.S. electricity, in the form of 17 solar "farms" or plants, all located in deserts where constant sunshine is available, whose average capacity I was unable to find via cursory searching.

There's also the consideration of the "price per watt", with coal costing about 4 to 8 cents to generate a single watt of power, but photovoltaic cells costing 8 to 12 cents (as of 2013). Granted, solar prices are falling, but they still have a ways to go to compare to the cheapest coal sources.

There's also the question of infrastructure. New solar plants cost a lot more to build from nothing than it does to maintain existing coal plants. Most likely we'll see solar plants being used to replace coal plants as they age beyond use and we are forced to replace them, but with over 500 operational coal plants, that's gonna take many years.