The number of solar industry jobs in Nevada more than doubled last year, the fastest per capita growth in the nation, a nonprofit research and education group said in a new report Thursday.

California became the first state to surpass 50,000 solar jobs with a U.S.-leading 54,680 in 2014, The Solar Foundation said in releasing its fifth annual State Solar Jobs Census.

It estimates that as of November 2014, the solar industry employed 173,807 workers nationally — up nearly 22 percent from the same month the previous year. It reported positive job growth in the industry during that period in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

Nevada has added 3,500 solar jobs since November 2013, an increase of 146 percent. That puts Nevada seventh on the list overall with 5,900 jobs, and No. 1 in jobs per capita.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said it is further proof the state that recently landed Tesla Motors' gigafactory and a huge Switch data center expansion is emerging as a leader in new technology innovation.

"This announcement demonstrates the possibilities within our state if we continue to recruit the growing industries of the 21st century," he said.

Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity, based in San Mateo, California, said his company now has 1,000 employees in Nevada compared to none two years ago.

"The steps the state has taken to build a vibrant, clean energy economy are paying off with thousands of new jobs for Nevadans," Rive said.

Massachusetts (9,400), Arizona (9,170), New York (7,284), New Jersey (7,200) and Texas (6,965) follow California on the list of total solar jobs. After Nevada, the most solar jobs per capita were in Vermont, Hawaii, California and Massachusetts. Those specific numbers were still being finalized on Thursday, group officials said.

"California is still the undisputed leader, but states like Minnesota, Illinois and North Carolina are growing aggressively," said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based group that was founded in 1977. "Our long-term research shows that solar industry employment has grown by 86 percent in the past five years, resulting in nearly 80,000 domestic living-wage jobs."

The study was conducted with BW Research Partnership, with support from George Washington University.

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On the Web: http://TheSolarFoundation.org