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Report: Pa. fast losing solar jobs

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A report from the Solar Foundation says the industry experienced record-breaking job growth last year across the country — except in Pennsylvania.

"In fact, Pennsylvania was the only state in the Northeast to lose a significant number of solar workers with its job force dropping by nearly 28 percent while New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts all ranked in the top five states nationally," a news release from the Sierra Club said.

But Gov. Tom Corbett's office disputes the Solar Foundation's report, saying the numbers are skewed.

"I would note that, like many industries, capturing job numbers at a fixed point in time can be misleading," said Patrick Henderson, Corbett's deputy chief of staff and energy executive. "Many of the jobs apparently counted in this census are for construction and installation of solar."

The Solar Foundation report states the solar industry in Massachusetts and New York both grew by nearly 50 percent, while developing markets in North Carolina and Georgia doubled their solar jobs, the news release states. Georgia is seeing growth in installations, too, thanks to policies in place there.

In 2011, a popular solar subsidy program in Pennsylvania came to an end, something that critics at the time said would cause a loss of jobs and business in the state.

But maybe that hasn't had as much of an impact as the Solar Foundation report would indicate.

Henderson notes that several solar-related projects — some very large — were completed in 2012.

"For example, the largest solar project in the commonwealth's history occurred under Gov. Corbett's watch — Nesquehoning Solar Park (in Carbon County) was built and activated in 2012," Henderson said in an email. "Additionally, another large project, the Keystone Solar project in Radnor, Lancaster County, was built and activated in October 2012."

Tom Schuster, Pennsylvania campaign representative of the Sierra Club, calls Corbett out to reverse the apparent job-loss trend.

"It's unacceptable that Governor Corbett is sitting idly by while Pennsylvania loses good clean energy jobs," Schuster said. "This should be a wake-up call to the governor that it's time to get Pennsylvania back on track with a greater administrative focus on developing renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, that will create jobs and make Pennsylvania a national leader once again."

Henderson said the governor is keeping renewable resources in mind. Meanwhile, he said Corbett has asked the Sierra Club and others to help him formulate the state's energy policy.

"It is unproductive that the Sierra Club chooses to only speak to Gov. Corbett through press releases," Henderson said. "We have actually extended invitations to the Sierra Club to discuss alternative energy several times — including in the development of Gov. Corbett's recently released State Energy Plan, but regrettably they have failed to take us up on this offer."

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