New Mexico’s Solar Industry Jobs Remain Flat, but Growth Projected

New Mexico's Solar Industry Jobs Remain Flat, but Growth Projected

New Mexico did not see any job growth in the solar industry over the last year. However, a recent report predicts an 8 percent increase through 2023 with the implementation of the state’s community solar program. In 2022, the state had 2,013 jobs in the solar power industry, ranking 31st in the US on a per-capita basis. Over the past five years, New Mexico saw a 20.2 percent drop in solar job growth, while the national total grew by 3.5 percent.

Neighboring states such as Texas and Colorado experienced growth in solar jobs, adding 904 and 200 jobs respectively. Jobs in the solar industry grew in 42 states in 2022, with California leading the way with 2,404 jobs followed by New York with 988 jobs.

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year, which tied future oil and gas leasing of federal land to the approval of solar projects, is expected to further support the solar industry. New Mexico, with about 34 percent of its land being federal, is positioned for future growth in solar power.

To expand access to solar power for low-income and renting residents, New Mexico recently launched its community solar program. This program allows for the development of smaller solar installations, known as “solar gardens,” where multiple users can tap into shared solar power. The program requires at least 30 percent low-income users and has a statewide cap of 200 megawatts of solar power.

New Mexico currently ranks 20th in the nation for installed solar power, but the state is projecting to increase its solar power capacity by 4,168 megawatts over the next five years, ranking it fifth in the US for projected growth. The state’s favorable solar energy potential, typically sunny weather, and ongoing efforts to promote renewable energy contribute to this projected growth.

While renewable energy, including wind and solar, already accounts for 42 percent of New Mexico’s electricity generation, the oil and gas industry warns that growth in renewables cannot compensate for potential losses in their sector. Renewable energy growth is attributed to shifting public policy and efforts to transition away from fossil fuels. However, industry groups argue that renewables are less reliable compared to traditional energy sources like oil and natural gas.

Despite the concerns of the oil and gas industry, New Mexico remains committed to expanding its solar industry and achieving a sustainable energy future.

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