Jobs in large-scale solar farms tripled last financial year, overtaking the hydro sector for the first time, and helping to drive an overall expansion of employment in the renewable energy sector.
Data from the Australian Bureau of statistics shows the number of full-time equivalent jobs in the industry rose 28 per cent in 2017-18 from a year earlier. The total of 17,740 jobs was up about 60 per cent from its recent low in 2015-16.
"We saw large scale solar projects – systems with an installed capacity of 100 kilowatts or greater – overtake hydroelectric power to become the second-largest creator of renewable jobs", accounting for a sixth of them, Jonathon Khoo, ABS's director for the centre of environmental and satellite accounts, said in a statement.
Rooftop solar photovoltaics continue to be the mainstay of jobs in the industry, making up just shy of half of them. Its share has dropped back from a peak of 74 per cent in direct renewable industry jobs in 2011-12 – as installations of panels break records almost on a monthly basis – as solar farms have grown even faster.
The release of the jobs figures comes as one of the country's biggest banks, Westpac, said on Wednesday it would source all of its electricity from renewable energy by 2025.
The bank's announcement included a 10-year plan to buy a quarter of the output of the Bomen Solar Farm near Wagga Wagga. Construction on the 120-megawatt plant is scheduled to begin this quarter, with power – enough to meet the needs of about 36,000 homes – to be supplied in about a year's time.
Gary Thursby, the bank's chief operating officer, said Westpac had long recognised that climate change was "one of the most significant issues set to impact the long-term prosperity of our
economy and way of life".
The tumbling price of renewable energy provided "a great opportunity" to transition away from fossil fuels in "a cost-effective way", he said in a statement.
Solar farm jobs soared from 930 in 2016-17 to 2880 last year, topping hydro's 2020 jobs and 1890 employed in wind farm developments, the ABS said. Solar's jump made up almost half the extra jobs in the sector last year.
All states reported an increase in jobs, with Victoria's Read More – Source