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Tackling the Solar Industry’s Skilled Labor Dilemma

Ryan Arnfinson
April 30, 2024
21 min. read

In the heart of the city, under the golden glow of dawn, the silhouette of a construction crew breaks the horizon. They are not just any workers; they are the pioneers at the forefront of a revolution, harnessing the sun’s boundless energy to power our world. But as the sun climbs higher, casting light on their faces, a glaring truth becomes evident: there are not enough of them. This scarcity of labor available for solar industry jobs has become evident in all areas of solar energy production, from solar installations to maintenance. But also in the underutilization of solar software solutions for field service management. 

The road to fixing the solar industry’s skilled labor crisis is one of those problematic, meandering, yet inviting opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and strategic planning. Perhaps if we consider a whole approach to workforce development, like the sun’s infinite energy supply, we can develop a sustainable solution to the current labor shortage and its challenging bottleneck. 

This article will introduce and take you through some of those challenges, while identifying insights and strategies with which a flexible and skilled workforce can continue to propel this industry toward an ever-brighter, greener future.This article is not written in the style of some academic exercise but rather in the spirit of a call to action for stakeholders across the spectrum: from policymakers to developers of solar business management software, and educational institutions for the workforce. Such understanding when dealing with this deficit becomes central not only to the growth of the industry but to our common quest for a more sustainable and energy-independent future.

Understanding the Skilled Labor Shortage

Defining ‘Skilled Labor Shortage’ in the Solar Industry

The phrase “skilled labor shortage” regarding the solar industry underscores a disparity in the supply and demand of professionals, trained and qualified, for the job in the sector.

This gap is not only in numbers but extends to necessary skills and expertise in carrying out the various capacities within the industry. From instructors in solar installation training to experienced solar project managers, the gaps are many.

The shortage is multifaceted: not only is there understaffing, but also an inadequacy in significant skills and training that need to be handled effectively with the growing demands of the solar industry.

Solar has an exponential trend, driven by technology and environmental consciousness growing at a fast pace. It has created a kind of demand for skilled labor in the industry never seen before.

Based on data from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar industry employment has shown growth over the past decade. Even with the growth, it is further accelerating beyond the capacity of trained professionals.

Solar energy-related positions, such as solar panel installers, electricians specializing in solar power systems, and professionals in the domain of solar business software and solar asset management software, are some of the roles in demand.

This shortage has a rippling effect which shows up in late project timelines, cost overruns, and overstretching of the current workers. This is also a major challenge facing the future scalability and efficiency of the solar industry and needs to be addressed.

A graph showing the cost of solar pv

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Source: SEIA/Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables U.S. Solar Market Insight 2023 Year in Review

Causes of Labor Shortage in the Solar Industry

Rapid Growth of the Solar Industry and Unmet Demand for Skilled Workers

The growth of the solar industry has been meteoric, driven by technological advancement and a worldwide shift toward renewable power production. This rapid expansion has created a vital need for skilled professionals far above the current rate of workers available to fill the demand.

And there are benefits for companies facing the current labor shortage crisis. The major solar tax credit for businesses located in the United States is the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC). It allows the business to take a percentage off their federal taxes, which normally ranges from 30% of what their total installation cost is for the solar energy system. This credit was further expanded and increased by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Additional benefits could be available by using U.S.-manufactured products and for projects in energy-designated communities or tribal lands. 

In Canada, solar energy installations may be eligible for benefits under various federal and provincial incentives in addition to the federal ecoENERGY program. Most benefits are in the grant or rebate form. While Canada and the U.S. had also agreed on a broad deal that would see the costs for Canadian solar projects fall, following the removal of recently reinstituted U.S. safeguard tariffs on Canadian solar products.

Challenges in Solar Recruitment

The process of solar recruitment faces a unique set of challenges. The solar technology workforce has to be fluent in a set of skills, knowledge, and abilities about their profession. Employees often have to go through special training in solar technology, which most commonly does not exist within standardized education or vocational training programs.

Solar Industry Skills in Demand:

Technical Skills:

  • Electrical Skills
  • Solar Panel Installation
  • System Configuration
  • Troubleshooting

Mechanical Skills:

  • Use of Hand and Power Tools
  • Physical Fitness and Safety Management
  • Equipment Maintenance

Additional Skills:

  • Site Assessment
  • Permitting and Compliance
  • Technical Drawing and Schematics
  • Project Management

Competition from other industries

The solar industry faces a labor shortage that is further complicated by competition from other sectors, creating a complex situation for companies within the solar field. In an effort to attract and retain skilled workers, some businesses are looking for professionals from industries such as telecommunications, real estate, oil and gas, and agriculture. These seasoned individuals bring valuable expertise in project development and management. However, they may require time to adjust to the specific demands of working in solar energy.

Education and Training Gaps

One critical factor causing the shortfall of skilled labor is the educational and training gap. There are a limited number of corresponding institutions offering education in up-to-date technology.For example, both the solar installer training and solar panel installation training programs that now exist seem to be painfully short of the needs related to growing demand within the industry. The absence of comprehensive and accessible training and development programs is a major setback for the preparation of a skilled labor force.

solar industry workforce

Impact of the Labor Shortage in the Solar Industry

The Human Cost of Solar’s Success

  • Increased job dissatisfaction and burnout among existing solar industry professionals due to overwork.
  • The gap in skilled labor may lead to a decrease in innovation within the solar industry.
  • Existing workers may feel undervalued or overstressed, negatively impacting their job satisfaction and mental health.
  • A lack of sufficient skilled labor may impede the industry’s ability to maintain high safety and quality standards.
  • Companies might face challenges in fostering a positive and inclusive company culture. 
  • Workers may experience a decrease in morale and motivation.
  • The shortage could limit opportunities for mentorship and skill development for new entrants.
  • The perception of the solar industry as a high-pressure and understaffed field might deter potential new talent.
  • Increased competition for skilled workers may lead to a sense of rivalry rather than collaboration.
  • The strain on existing employees could lead to reduced worker engagement and loyalty.

Hidden Costs of Labor Shortages in the Solar Industry

  • Delay in project completion timelines.
  • Increased labor costs as companies may need to offer higher wages to attract and retain scarce skilled labor.
  • Possible reliance on less experienced or unqualified workers.
  • Decreased operational efficiency.
  • Heightened risk of errors and rework.
  • Constraints on the industry’s capacity to scale up operations.
  • Increased overheads for recruitment, training, and development.
  • Potential for technology and machinery to be underutilized or improperly operated.
  • Restrictions on the ability to innovate and implement new technologies quickly, as a limited workforce focuses on meeting existing demand rather than developing new solutions.

Cultural Barriers to Growth in the Solar Workforce

  • Cultural perceptions of solar industry jobs as unstable or less desirable.
  • A lack of community and societal support for vocational training.
  • Misalignment between industry needs and educational curricula.
  • Potential decrease in diversity within the industry workforce.
  • The industry may struggle to establish strong, collaborative networks.
  • Social values prioritize immediate job availability over specialized career paths.
  • Public misconceptions about the solar industry’s long-term viability and job security.
  • The collective push towards automation might be seen as a threat to job security.
  • Difficulty in creating a cohesive industry identity and culture that celebrates and encourages participation in the solar sector.
  • Challenges in garnering sufficient public and private support for substantial investments in solar workforce development programs.

Hurdles to Solar Workforce Expansion

  • Insufficient number of training and certification programs.
  • Lack of government incentives and policies to support workforce development.
  • Economic barriers for potential workers, such as the high cost of education and training, limit access to the solar industry for many.
  • Fragmented industry standards and certifications.
  • Limited industry-wide collaboration to address the labor shortage.
  • Dependence on foreign labor markets to fill skilled positions.
  • Challenges in adapting existing educational infrastructure and curricula.
  • Regulatory hurdles may impede the swift development of training programs.
  • Economic fluctuations and uncertainties could deter investment in skilled labor development and retention initiatives.
  • Potential bottleneck in the supply chain due to labor shortages.

Leveraging Technology to Bridge the Labor Gap

Impact of Solar Business Management Software and Technology Adoption

This labor shortage is also related to the adaptation and effective utilization of solar business management software and other technologies available. In the modern world, solar industry jobs are not only based on manual labor but the ability to effectively use sophisticated software and technologies.In the absence of trained personnel, it means that state-of-the-art solar software solutions may go underutilized, and this implies less efficiency and competitive advantage within the market.

Field Service Management Software for the Solar Energy Industry

With the adoption of field service management software for the solar energy industry, the pinch felt from labor shortages is highly mitigated. The software optimizes workflow, scheduling, and resource allocation, which now allows solar companies to do more with fewer hands. Service schedule software increases overall productivity, given that it enables skilled workers to focus on complex and high-value activities by automating routine work and enhancing communication.

Solar Asset Management Software and Its Benefits

Besides field service and asset management, solar software solutions are needed to relieve the impact tied to labor scarcity. Some of these include design and simulation software, customer relation management (CRM) systems, and energy production analysis tools.

Application of these technologies in solar companies would facilitate increased operational efficiency, better decision-making, reduction in time, and labor force required for various processes. This further leads to high productivity so a large workforce is not needed.

Strategies for Improving Solar Recruitment

Role of Educational Institutions and Certifications

Education institutions have a very important role to play in solar recruitment and solar industry growth. With the help of focused courses and certification programs in this technology, education institutions can train students to become future experts in solar technology and installations.

The industry may also coordinate with educational institutions for on-the-job practical training and apprenticeships.

Innovative Approaches to Attract Talent

Should there be any hope of meeting the shortfall in skills supply, the industry is going to have to get imaginative in how it recruits. This will also require reaching the younger generation with their message and using social media and digital means to show solar careers as dynamic and rewarding. Yet it would be through the establishment of relationships with learning institutions where interest could be created, and career path opportunities delivered.

Role of Incentives and Career Advancement Opportunities

Offering competitive incentives is crucial in attracting skilled professionals to the solar industry. This could be handsome compensation, career progression and continuous development and learning opportunities.

The prospect of a long-term career and purposeful work in environmental sustainability may hold a special interest for those seeking meaning from his or her employability.

Enhancing Visibility and Appeal of Solar Industry Jobs

Targeted marketing campaigns and industry event participation would increase the visibility of solar industry jobs to those with high interest in a career and provide more awareness and interest to those seeking a new career direction.

Importance of Solar Installation Training

The right solar installation training will see to the safety and efficiency of the project. With such increasing demand in the solar business, it would certainly mean a growing demand for trained installers.

Provide enhanced training programs to produce skilled human resources that can competently perform the complexities associated with technical solar installation.

Strategy Development: Educational Partnerships and Training Programs

  • Development of vocational and technical training programs in partnership with high schools and community colleges.
  • Integration of solar energy and renewable power topics into STEM curricula at educational institutions.
  • Offering apprenticeship programs to provide hands-on experience in solar installations and maintenance.

Implementation Tactics:

  • Partnering with online education platforms to offer certified courses on solar technology accessible to a
    broader audience.
  • Organizing solar energy awareness campaigns in schools and communities to spark interest in renewable energy careers.
  • Providing scholarships and financial aid options for students enrolling in solar energy-related courses.

Expected Outcomes:

  • Increase in the number of qualified solar industry professionals through accessible and comprehensive training.
  • A higher rate of youth engagement and interest in pursuing careers in the renewable energy sector.
  • Improved workforce diversity and inclusion within the solar industry through targeted outreach and scholarship programs.

Solar Business Software as a Tool for Efficiency

solar industry workforce

Successful Implementation of Solar Business Software

Solar business software implementation has proved a game changer for many companies in the industry. Solar business software integration brings streamlined operations, better management of the project, and better relationships with customers.

Improving Operations and Reducing the Need for Extensive Manpower

Solar business software comes with numerous benefits, among them being operational efficiency. The features of automation schedules, project tracking, and management of resources in real-time reduce the necessity of a huge amount of manpower.

It does not only compensate for the labor shortages, but it keeps the existing staff more focused on more critical work, so it turns out to be productive.

Adapting to Technological Advancements

Today, with the evolution of the solar industry, keeping up with technology has become a mandate. Companies in the field of solar energy could be one step ahead if they adapt and embrace advanced software solutions and technologies.

This adjustment is only about keeping up with the technological pace; it is optimizing operations and paying low costs to get the maximum potential return.

Strategy Development – Embracing Innovation and Automation:

  • Investing in automation technologies for repetitive and labor-intensive tasks without significantly reducing workforce needs.
  • Promotes the integration of AI and machine learning tools for efficient project planning and management.
  • Encourages R&D for new technologies that simplify installation processes and reduce manual labor requirements.

Implementation Tactics:

  • Organizing hackathons and innovation challenges focused on creating new tools and methods for efficient solar panel installation.
  • Collaborating with tech companies to develop wearable devices that improve worker safety and efficiency on-site.
  • Providing grants and support for startups focusing on robotic solutions for large-scale solar farm installations.

Expected Outcomes:

  • Reduction in dependency on manual labor for certain tasks, allowing for reassignment of skilled workers to more critical roles.
  • Enhancement of overall project efficiency and safety through advanced technologies and tools.
  • Stimulation of additional job creation in the tech sector, contributing to robust growth across the broader renewable energy ecosystem.

Government and Policy Makers and How Different Countries are Handling Solar Industry Labor Shortages

Countries are adopting creative approaches on how to solve the labor shortages in the solar industry. Among them is Germany, which excels at vocational training and apprenticeship programs to forge a highly equipped talent pool.

Similarly, huge investments in the field of education on renewable energy provided the robust capacity of the workforce to China in their solar industry.

Lessons and Strategies That Can Be Adopted Globally

Some European countries suggest that subsidies to education and training programs on solar may develop a skilled labor pool. Another path might be encouraging international cooperation and the exchange of knowledge for standards in training and qualifications across borders.

Adapting Best Practices to Local Contexts

While such worldwide best practices are of great value, they have to be retargeted towards local customs, considering the fact that socio-economic dynamics, together with educational systems and structures of industry, are specific to every country.

Such transformation, therefore, of global best practices into something fitting local nuances, ensures much effectiveness and sustainability of the problem-related solution in this case labor shortages in the solar industry.

Policies and Incentives to Support Labor Growth

Government policy could bring about the creation of jobs by offering additional tax breaks, grants, or subsidies to solar companies investing in training and employing competent workers. The policies will also enhance the training and education of renewable energy in vocational training and education for a skilled workforce.

Collaborations between Industry and Government

There is a requirement for cooperation between the solar industry and government agencies to address the labor shortage. This should be a collaborative approach, working towards developing certifications for the industry, training programs for the jobs being created, and enhancing investment in research and development.

These collaborations go a long way to ensure that the skills taught under training programs remain in sync with the ever-changing requirements of the industry.

Strategy Development – Policy Support and Incentives:

  • Lobbies for government subsidies and financial incentives for individuals pursuing careers in the solar energy sector.
  • Advocates for policy reforms that recognize and standardize solar energy training and certification programs.
  • Establishment of tax breaks and incentives for companies investing in employee training and development within the solar industry.

Implementation Tactics:

  • Creates a coordinated advocacy group of industry leaders to present well-researched policy proposals to legislators.
  • Launches public awareness campaigns highlighting the benefits of a thriving solar industry workforce for the economy and environment.
  • Establishes a fund to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the solar sector by offering competitive wages and training.

Expected Outcomes:

  • Enhanced collaboration between the solar industry and government bodies leading to supportive policies and financial frameworks.
  • Company-level benefits from tax incentives and subsidies, facilitating further investments in workforce development.
  • A more stable and skilled workforce, attracted by the improved financial and professional benefits within the solar industry.

This approach would moderate the short-term labor bottlenecks, mostly for large-scale projects and at the same time, introduce a great global exchange of know-how and best practices in solar technology and installation. Accordingly, governments could ease visa requirements for solar professionals with skills to enable the international mobility of the workforce.

Community Engagement and Public Awareness

Importance of Raising Awareness about Careers in Solar Industry Jobs

Awareness of the array of professions and rewarding solar industry jobs must be established. Social initiatives under community outreach programs could include the organization of information evenings, workshops, or open days in solar companies to demystify the industry and build interest among potential job seekers. 

Community Programs and Outreach

This is possible by tapping the community to launch educational programs and outreach activities and includes collaborations with schools, colleges, and community groups that bring youth in contact with solar energy concepts and opportunities for solar careers.

Public-Private Partnerships for Workforce Development

Public-private partnerships could become the building blocks of workforce development tailored to the solar industry. Jointly, businesses, educational institutions, and the government could create these training programs meant to fill those specific skill gaps to prepare individuals to take their place in the industry.

Strategy Development – Industry Collaboration and Standardization:

  • Forms industry associations to share best practices, training materials, and workforce development strategies.
  • Creates a unified platform for industry-wide job openings, showcasing varied opportunities across companies.
  • Standardizes job roles and qualifications across the industry to streamline recruitment and training processes.

Implementation Tactics:

  • Holding annual industry conferences focused on workforce development and training innovations.
  • Developing a shared digital library of training resources, accessible to all industry partners.
  • Implementing an industry-wide mentorship program to foster skill development and professional growth among new entrants.

Expected Outcomes:

  • Creates a cohesive and supportive solar industry community, fostering a culture of knowledge sharing and innovation.
  • Reduces onboarding time and costs due to standardized roles and qualifications, enhancing operational efficiency.
  • Increases attractiveness of the solar industry as a career option due to clear pathways for advancement and industry support.

Case Studies: Successful Approaches to Combating Labor Shortages

Case Study 1: Innovative Training Programs

Companies from the United States started an enthusiastic training program for newly recruited employees and gave them theoretical knowledge and practical experience.

The great thing about this initiative is that the recruited employee is not only prepared for his immediate job responsibilities but further knowledge within the industry making them versatile and valuable workers in the company.

Case Study 2: Strategic Partnerships for Talent Sourcing

One European solar firm partnered with local technical colleges to build a pipeline for qualified workers. At least one such partnership involved the college working with the firm on curriculum development, specifically for the needs of the solar industry, and provided students with practical experiences and a clear way into jobs post-graduation.

Case Study 3: Technology Integration for Operational Efficiency

A solar company in Asia leveraged advanced solar software solutions to streamline its operations. Such systems in adoption are solar business management software and field service software for the solar energy industry, which allows firms to optimize their workforce needs, reduce the number of on-ground staff, and downscale the effects of labor shortage.

The Role of Praxedo in this Situation

solar business software

Praxedo’s best-in-class Field Service Management software provides a powerful helping hand to the solar industry, which is facing the challenge of qualified labor shortages.

Equipped with powerful and intuitive features, Praxedo can support the operation, increase productivity, and eventually save businesses from workforce limitations. Let’s explore how Praxedo ca be a game-changer in this challenging scenario:

Optimized Workflow and Scheduling

Praxedo provides an office-management web application. Solar companies can easily plan the schedule of their field teams with this web application. The activity follow-up is real-time, and allows optimization of the route, both of which are important for efficient service delivery within time-bound industries.

With Praxedo, companies can effectively schedule and plan routes even with thin staff, at the same time reducing time spent on the activities.

Enhanced Field Technician Productivity

Conceived for field technicians, Praxedo’s field service mobile app facilitates the work and achieves productivity that significantly improves all phases of projects. Real-time sync with offline access to data allows technicians to have their schedules updated automatically, see documents, work order history, and make submissions of their work order reports without delay.This eases the process, reduces the administrative burden, and helps any solar project manager to stay focused on their core job, the installation and maintenance of solar panels.

Facilitating Communication and Customer Satisfaction

To further strengthen the relationship with easy and instantaneous updates, Praxedo also incorporates tools that facilitate better communication with the customer.

Automated notifications update customers on the progress of the project, with real-time monitoring of work order statuses, and customer portals, all designed to be highly customer-centric in an industry where customer confidence and satisfaction play a great role.

Praxedo provides a complete solution that meets some of the challenges faced by the shortage of a skilled labor force. Its focus on operation, optimization, enhanced technician productivity, with better customer communication makes it the most valued asset to solar businesses managing solar project challenges.


The big problem is scarcity of qualified labor in the solar industry, but at the same time, a huge opportunity arises for innovation and growth. But as noted, overcoming this challenge would need comprehensive improvement of solar recruitment, increased solar installation training, and effective usage of “solar business software,” in addition to powerful cooperation among industry, government, and educational institution partnerships.

The solar industry’s future rests on our collective ability to expand and support a skilled workforce. Embracing advancing technologies and public awareness coupled with full-scale investments in educational and training programs are key to this solar workforce development. As seen in the case studies, practical and innovative solutions can lead to successful outcomes.

As the solar industry continues its rapid growth, the need for skilled labor will only become more acute. The time has come to act decisively and creatively towards ensuring the ability of the industry not just meets present demands but is also prepared for future challenges and opportunities. In doing so, we can secure a resilient, efficient, and sustainable solar industry for generations to come.

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