U.S. solar companies added 20 percent more jobs in the 12 months through November, the biggest climb since an industry-funded group began its survey four years ago.

The survey of more than 15,000 employers found 23,682 jobs were added, with installation accounting for about half of the industry's 142,698 workers, the nonprofit Solar Foundation concluded in a report posted on its website today. The rate is 10 times more than the national average for job growth, as a continued decline in installation costs spurs demand for solar power systems.

"The solar industry's job-creating power is clear," Andrea Luecke, president of the Washington-based foundation, said in the statement. "For the fourth year running, solar jobs remain well-paid and attract highly skilled workers."

The rate of growth is expected to slow in the next 12 months to 15.6 percent as developers scale back on large solar projects, the report found. Of the 22,240 additional solar jobs predicted, developers are planning to add 360 workers as the federal government's investment tax credit is set to expire in 2016, reducing bank funding opportunities for new projects.

U.S. solar energy capacity jumped 35 percent in the third quarter driven by large-scale projects, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. A February 2012 U.S. Energy Department study predicted that employment in the solar industry will reach more than 340,000 by 2030.


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The cost of installed solar equipment has dropped more than 50 percent since the start of 2010, the foundation said. Installers make an average of $23.63 an hour, according to the survey.

"The American solar industry has the potential to be one of the greatest job creators this country has ever seen," SolarCity Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive said in the statement. The solar installation company has added more than 2,000 jobs since the start of 2013, he said.

The Solar Foundation's report is based on 73,796 phone calls and more than 11,000 emails and has an error rate of plus or minus 1.3 percent.