With the U.S. presidential election less than three weeks away, both the public and the media seem to be buzzing about two hot topics (especially after the most recent debates): energy policy and the economy.

For those of us in the solar industry, energy policy and the economy are interlinked. Job growth in the industry is booming – last year, the solar industry grew by 6.8 percent according to the Solar Foundation’s 2011 Solar Job Census (the most recent date for which data is available).[i] 

That’s a staggering 10 times more than the economy grew as a whole during the same time frame. Support for solar and other types of renewable energy is essential for the continued growth not only of the solar industry, but the entire U.S. economy.

Each candidate has defined his stance on energy policy and energy use, and it’s clear that they are different. Most citizens may differ on their opinions of energy use as well. Should we continue to rely on oil and coal? Shift toward solar and wind? Or should we explore some combination of renewable and traditional energy sources that will lead the U.S. to energy independence?

Here at SMA America, the largest solar inverter manufacturer in North America, we believe that clean energy sources, especially solar, are vital to the energy equation. However, solar energy means more than a cleaner, greener United States: Solar energy means jobs and security for American citizens. The industry is clearly growing at an astonishing rate and has proven itself a key player for economic recovery and growth in both the job market and the U.S. manufacturing sector.

The solar industry created 6,735 new jobs from August 2010 to August 2011, with a total of 100,000 people working in the industry. It is expected that 24,000 net new solar jobs were created from 2011 to 2012.[ii]

This recent success in renewable energy job creation is further demonstrated in a second quarter clean energy jobs report from the Environmental Entrepreneurs. The report found that renewable energy companies had launched 70 new projects in Q2 that could create up to 37,409 job openings, including jobs in solar.[iii] 

Support solar or not, the evidence favors the solar industry as a major American job creator. The Solar Foundation will release its 2012 Solar Jobs Census near election time, which will confirm if predictions for 2012 were accurate. It has certainly been a big year for the industry.

Come November 6, we believe that whoever the people choose as the next president of the United States should support solar businesses that are contributing to economic growth, and should explore an intelligent mix of energy sources in his energy policy. Not for the sake of solar, but for the nation’s economic recovery.

Image: Solar Installation via Shutterstock