Half of US solar workers hit by COVID-19 cuts; UK solar output hits record as pollution clears

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The COVID-19 pandemic is curbing US solar demand, of which two thirds is utility-scale. (Image credit: US Pacific Southwest Region)

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Half of US solar workers impacted by COVID-19 cuts, survey shows

Some 55% of US solar workers have been laid off or are working at reduced hours or lower pay due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey performed by the US Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA).

The findings are based on a survey conducted between March 22 and April 10. The participants represented 34,000 jobs, around 15% of the solar workforce.

          Impact of COVID-19 on US solar jobs

                                 (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA)

Late last month, SEIA said 40% of solar companies had reduced their staff numbers and warned the situation was worsening.

Since the outbreak of the virus, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables has reduced its US solar market outlook for 2020 by 18%, from 19.6 GW to 16.0 GW.

Before the crisis, US solar employment was forecast to rise by 7.8% this year to 269,500 jobs as new installations soared to record levels, the Solar Foundation said in its National Solar Jobs Census in February.

Employment in solar installation, the largest job sector, was expected to grow by 9.5% this year, adding around 15,000 jobs to the US economy, the Census showed. Employment in operations and maintenance (O&M) was expected to rise by 4%, equivalent to 463 new jobs nationwide, it said.

"This once again is testing our industry’s resilience, but we believe, over the long run, we are well positioned to outcompete incumbent generators...and to continue growing our market share,” SEIA said last month.

UK solar output hits new record as lockdowns cut pollution

Reductions in pollution due to the COVID-19 lockdown helped UK solar production hit record levels on April 20, the UK Solar Trade Association (STA) said.

Solar supply peaked at 9.68 GW at 12:30 local time, surpassing the previous record of 9.55 GW set on May 14, 2019.

“Ideal weather conditions and lower levels of pollution than normal mean solar is providing record levels of cheap, clean power to the grid," STA said.

Across Europe, COVID-19 lockdowns have sliced power demand, increased the share of renewable energy, and depressed prices.

                Impact of COVID-19 on UK power demand (April 14)

                                                         (Click image to enlarge)

Source: UK National Grid ESO

At its peak, solar power supplied almost a third of UK electricity and had helped keep coal-fired power stations offline for 11.5 consecutive days, STA said. This could increase further in the coming days.

"As the lockdown and good weather continues, it is expected that more solar generation records will be broken," it said.

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