UNITED STATES—The renewable energy sector in California is poised for remarkable growth in the coming years, with California’s Antelope Valley region, just north of Los Angeles, emerging as a significant hub for clean energy development. A recent report by the Staffing Industries Association (SIA) predicts a surge in job opportunities within the renewable energy industry globally, with much of this growth focussed in solar-forward “hubs” like the Antelope Valley region.  In 2022, the state already boasted a significant workforce in the energy sector, with over 911,345 workers employed. (Notably, more than 76% of the electric power generation workforce in California was dedicated to wind, solar, and hydroelectric power).

But Solar power in particular is experiencing unprecedented growth, outpacing uptake of other renewable energy sources. According to the same SIA report, solar accounted for 44% of all renewable energy jobs in 2023 and is projected to create nearly 75% of all new renewable energy jobs through 2030.  One of the reasons behind this rapid growth is the versatility of solar installations, which can be deployed by both individual residential consumers and utility-scale projects, making it one of the few renewable sectors accessible to the average person rather than exclusively in the purview of industries or the state.

But why California? Two major factors have contributed to the development of the solar state:

1) Incentives and Government Initiatives

The implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act has accelerated opportunities in the clean energy sector, attracting an estimated $21.2 billion in investment for large-scale clean power generation and storage projects in California by 2030. Currently, California ranks as the second-largest generator of renewable electricity in the nation, with over 33 GW of solar, wind, and storage capacity already in place. Moreover, plans for an additional eight GW of clean energy capacity are underway, demonstrating a commitment to further expansion.

The Inflation Reduction Act also includes tax credits aimed at incentivizing investment in wind and solar energy, which are expected to lead to significant cost reductions. Projections suggest that the costs of solar and wind power will decrease by 24% and 35%, respectively, over the next 30 years in California. Residential rooftop solar, in particular, is expected to become 60% cheaper by 2050.

The Self Generating Incentive Program (SGIP) has also increased interest in Solar in CA. While the incentive is for home batteries, for many homeowners looking at a battery is either an entry point to considering solar, or so crucial that they are unwilling to consider solar without a battery. BNN Bloomberg states that in California around 85% of solar sales featured solar and storage systems for the last two quarters, up from 20% last year.

2) Sunlight and Weather

California’s sunny weather has traditionally made it an ideal location for solar energy adoption. With abundant and consistent levels of sunlight throughout the year, the state offers favorable conditions for generating solar power. Consequently, many homeowners have been drawn to the idea of harnessing solar energy to reduce their reliance on the traditional grid and lower their electricity bills.

In addition, the intermittent nature of California’s grid energy, exacerbated by weather-related disruptions, has further incentivized homeowners to invest in solar energy systems and increasingly home storage or even solar home generators. By generating their own electricity through solar panels, homeowners can mitigate the impact of grid outages and ensure a more stable power supply, especially during times of high demand or grid strain.

However, recent policy changes have introduced challenges to the growth of rooftop solar installations in California. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ended the state’s net metering policies in 2022, which previously incentivized homeowners to invest in solar panels by compensating them for excess power fed back into the grid. The replacement of net metering with a “net billing tariff” has led to a decline in rooftop solar project sales by approximately 80%.

Despite these challenges, the momentum for solar energy remains strong. California continues to lead the nation in small-scale solar power generation, with a recent report highlighting its impressive growth over the past decade. However, there is still untapped potential, and policymakers must ensure that state policies support robust rooftop solar growth to realize California’s solar energy goals.

The renewable energy sector, particularly solar power, is driving significant economic growth in the region just north of Los Angeles. With supportive policies and continued investment, the Antelope Valley area is well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the clean energy transition, creating jobs, reducing emissions, and bolstering the local economy in the process.