Ryan Denham | WGLT, NPR
After the training, the 31-year-old received four jobs offers and moved to Colorado, where he installs solar panels on homes.
“It was definitely a big move. But it did pan out well,” Laughlin said.
Laughlin is one of thousands of workers who’ve benefited from a solar energy boom in the U.S., fueled in part by government incentives and falling technology costs. The number of solar photovoltaic installer jobs is expected to more than double between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In Central Illinois, the industry expects to add more jobs later this year as utility-scale solar farms are built. Dozens of solar farm projects are pending in McLean County.
Much of that growth traces back to the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, which went into effect in 2017. It’s considered one of the most significant pieces of energy legislation ever to pass the Illinois General Assembly. It requires that Illinois procure 25 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2025. It also sets aside $30 million to develop clean energy-related job training programs over the next 12 years.