What Are the Economic Impacts of Solar Energy?

Updated February 21, 2017

Although solar energy is not a new idea, its full economic impact is not yet certain. As renewable resources become more powerful, how extensively and in what manner communities use solar energy will effect how that energy impacts the economy. Large, centralised solar power plants and solar cell factories will effect the economy much differently than local factories and distributed solar power.

Large Plants

Constructing large solar generating plants has a significant short term economic benefit in producing construction jobs, but once the plant is completed its employment advantage drops. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory predicted that building a single 1,000 megawatt solar power plant in Nevada would generate over 2,000 jobs for three years as it was being built. After building, however, the job benefits dropped precipitously for the next four years, before slowly climbing to just over 200 new jobs. The advantages of building a series of electric plants every few years were predicted to be more lasting, with plentiful construction jobs for as long as new plants are built. The plants similarly produced large boosts in state product and average personal income while being built and more moderate increases in income once they were completed.

Local Production

Big solar power plants are only a small part of the story. Solar power is a distributed energy: it is available everywhere and can be easily harvested by placing small batteries of solar cells on large numbers of local buildings, saving land that would otherwise be needed to operate big solar plants. Locally installing solar cells creates jobs installing those cells on houses, businesses and other buildings, stimulating local economies. If solar cells were manufactured locally in small factories as the solar movement occurs, it would provide another boost to the economy in the form of manufacturing jobs.

Grid Cost Savings

Currently, the majority of electricity is produced in large scale power plants and transported hundreds of miles to houses, businesses and other buildings. All of this infrastructure costs a lot of money to build and maintain. As local solar energy takes off, it will reduce the costs of infrastructure. Communities will not have to build new large scale transmission lines, since electricity will be transported much shorter distances within a community.

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About the Author

Isaiah David is a freelance writer and musician living in Portland, Ore. He has over five years experience as a professional writer and has been published on various online outlets. He holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan.