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American Solar Workers Speak Up About the Harm the Coronavirus Is Causing

Tuesday, Apr 28 2020

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SEIA Communications Team
unfinished utility-scale solar project

Thank you to those who have responded to our COVID-19 impact survey. Please continue to fill it out if your situation has changed or you are just starting to feel the impacts of this crisis. Your responses help SEIA advocate more effectively on behalf of our workers and businesses.

 

Across the country, thousands of hardworking Americans clocked out for the last time. As solar businesses shutter and unemployment checks become the new normal, it’s their families that are bearing the real brunt of the coronavirus pandemic.

Like other industries, the solar industry is not immune to the collapse of the economy. Customer demand is plummeting and construction has come to a halt in many top solar states. This has caused significant workforce reductions, project cancellations and a near halt of the solar economy, putting the 250,000 families that the solar industry supports at risk.

We continue to hear about these impacts from solar companies. Here are some of their stories:

  • A New Jersey installer laid off 250 people earlier this month as customer demand has plummeted for residential companies.
  • A few weeks ago it was reported that residential solar company Sungevity laid off 400 workers due to “business conditions and the COVID-19 outbreak.” The cuts impacted hard-working installers, sales teams, roofers and more.
  • A large utility-scale developer told us that they have a shovel-ready $109 million project in Texas that would employ 550 workers and pump millions of dollars into the local economy. That project is now on hold because tax equity financing is drying up. That is 550 families who will not be receiving paychecks they were relying on.
  • An installer in Wisconsin says new projects will not move forward and they will need to start layoffs in Q3 if relief for the solar industry doesn’t come soon. This underscores the need for us to help solar workers and businesses, more than 95% of which are small businesses.
  • One equipment supplier said that they have a dim outlook about sales for the remainder of the year as projects have halted and they’re operating at half capacity. Cash flow is down and it’s becoming an “hour by hour act to manage it.”

The effects of COVID-19 are being felt throughout the solar industry, in every market segment. According to a survey from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), 80% of solar projects are delayed or canceled. In Q2 alone, the latest analysis from SEIA shows that residential and commercial solar markets could see a 70% decrease and utility markets could be down by 50%.

This is far from business as usual.

What we’re seeing and hearing is life-changing and more damage could be ahead if solutions don’t emerge. One of the biggest issues SEIA is hearing is that companies are having difficulty financing projects. Many companies say they need the option to take the solar investment tax credit as a cash payout to help solve near term capital needs and keep workers on the payroll.  

A strong clean energy economy will be critical in our recovery from this crisis, and SEIA will continue working with Congress and the administration on the best and most compassionate path forward. Half of our workers are at risk of losing their jobs and we must take action to stave off those losses.

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