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Texas ranks No. 6 for solar energy jobs

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Jaime Villanueva

Larry Howe, a volunteer with Plano Solar Advocates, speaks during the Texas Solar Energy Society’s annual meeting Saturday afternoon at Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen.

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Texas ranked sixth among states with the largest number of solar jobs, and at least one advocate is hoping to make Central Texas a major player in energy sources field.

“We as a community really need to start embracing the fastest growing industry, and if we don’t start taking steps, it is going to pass us by,” said Scott Arey, co-owner of Solar Centex and Texas Solar Energy Society chairman.

A lack of interest in the field made it difficult for Arey’s company, a solar panel installer for residents and businesses, to get financial backing locally, he said.

Arey believes businesses, banks, home builders and residents all need to get on board by using solar products to take Texas to the next level.

Texas’ sixth position means the state reported 4,100 jobs in the field, according to data released by the Solar Foundation in February.

Ahead of Texas were California with 47,233 jobs, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York.

Other than California, none of the other states broke the 10,000-job mark. The industry experienced a 20 percent increase in the employment figure.

Employers are seeking 192 workers for solar-related fields throughout the state, said Jerry Haisler, Central Texas Workforce Centers director.

Most of those positions are in larger metropolitan areas such as Dallas and Houston, Haisler said. None was in Central Texas.

“I am not surprised by that,” he said. “We know there are businesses and opportunity here.”

Although solar businesses and job opportunities can be found in Central Texas, those businesses employ just a handful of people.

Solar Centex employs seven people in addition to two co-owners, Arey said.

In June, Texas A&M-Central Texas announced a cooperative project with the Center for Solar Energy that would create an incubation program for early-stage solar technologies businesses and attract investors to the field.

Plans for the center included creating an 800-acre incubation and demonstration site in Bell County that will house solar and photovoltaic technology.

University officials said the program is still in the early phases and has yet to break ground.

Arey said the center will be a step in the right direction, but it is really up to everyone to support the industry.

mcanales@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

Contact Mason W. Canales at ​mcanales@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7474

4 images

Jaime Villanueva

Larry Howe, a volunteer with Plano Solar Advocates, speaks during the Texas Solar Energy Society’s annual meeting Saturday afternoon at Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen.