By Mary Kuhlman
A new report indicates the Hoosier state is falling behind its neighbors when it comes to solar power.
According to the Solar Foundation, Indiana lost 100 jobs in 2014, a year after gaining 1,000.
Chris Rohaly, who owns a solar installation and design firm in Kokomo, says solar power is flourishing in many other Midwestern states and Indiana's solar industry needs policies that support demand.
"Where states have created energy policies encouraging the move or hastening the move to renewable sources, the industry has seen a marked growth in the number of jobs and companies," he points out.
The report ranks Indiana 28th nationally for solar job creation, with 1,400 jobs.
Meanwhile, Ohio and Illinois saw strong solar-jobs growth in 2014, and both rank in the top 12 states for solar-related employment.
The jobs numbers come as state lawmakers consider House Bill 1320, which supporters say would make the use of renewable energy more equitable.
Opponents, including Brad Morton, owner of Morton Solar in Evansville, counter that it would take away renewable-energy incentives.
Morton adds that with the proposal, Indiana will continue to miss out on the local jobs and energy freedom homegrown solar power can provide.
"Indiana has not been a state that has traditionally supported renewable energy," he states. "When you compare Indiana to other states, we're very far behind."
The Indiana Energy Association is among those backing the legislation, and claims it will ensure fairness when it comes to paying for the use of the electric grid while ensuring the growth of clean-energy options.
But Rohaly argues it will limit people's choice of companies to provide solar in the open market.
"It seems to manipulate the competitive landscape by shifting advantage to the state monopoly, as opposed to creating an environment for fair competition from independents and startups," he says.
More than 173,000 Americans work in the solar industry, and the top three sectors are installation, manufacturing and sales and distribution.