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coronavirus fallout

Coronavirus pandemic could place hundreds of thousands of jobs in wind, solar energy at risk

Coronavirus lockdowns across the U.S. may be helping clear the air of pollution, but the pandemic has also led to a setback for the country's renewable energy industry, The Associated Press reports.

The wind and solar sectors were on good footing before the pandemic struck but now trade groups are predicting as many as 120,000 jobs in solar and 35,000 in wind could be lost when all is said and done. "There are many smaller companies going out of business as we speak," said Abigail Ross Harper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. "Up to half our jobs are at risk."

The wind industry is struggling to get parts from overseas, while residential solar businesses are taking the brunt of the hit in that industry since door-to-door sales aren't possible anymore, and individual customers are being cautious during the downturn. Subsequently, new solar installations could drop 17 percent this year, while wind manufacturing could fall up to 20 percent, consulting firm Wood McKenzie estimates.

"The industry was on a tremendous roll right up until the last month or two," said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. "That reversal is stunning and problematic."

But while the pandemic has caused the industry pain, there's a sense things will turn around again in the long run. Andrew Pershing, the chief scientific officer with Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine, for example, hopes the pandemic eventually results in an economy "that doesn't depend on burning coal and oil." Read more at The Associated Press.