Just how prevalent is solar power in the United States these days? In 2014, the U.S. Solar industry achieved yet another record year, growing by 34% over 2013 to install nearly 7,000 megawatts (MW) of solar electric capacity. Within the photovoltaic (PV) sector, over 6,200 MW of capacity was installed, led by the residential and utility segments, which grew by 51% and 38%, respectively.
The way the industry has been booming from one year to the next, it’s no surprise that 2015 has been even better, and 2016 will build on that momentum.
While solar is still a small overall part of America's energy mix, this type of growth shows that it will continue to boom and experts predict that solar will become the world's largest source of electricity by 2050.
The U.S. looks to follow in the footsteps of countries like Germany, where 63% of their entire electricity is supplied through solar, and Japan and China who together make up more than 50% of the world’s solar industry.
Here are 20 statistics about the U.S. Solar industry in 2015...and beyond:
1. The U.S. installed 1,306 megawatts of direct current (MWdc) of solar PV in the first quarter of 2015, marking the sixth consecutive quarter in which the U.S. added more than 1 gigawatt of direct current (GWdc) of PV installations. And experts suggest that by the end of the year it will reach 7.9 GWdc, which is a 27% increase over 2014.
2. The industry grew 418% from 2010 to 2014. Within the last two years, the U.S. installed more solar than the previous 38 years combined.
3. Through the first quarter of 2015, nearly one-fourth of cumulative residential solar installations have now come on-line without any state incentive.
4. Collectively, more than 51% of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. came from solar in the first quarter of 2015.
5. Every three minutes, someone in the United States switches to solar.
6. The residential and utility PV market segments each added more capacity than the natural gas industry brought on-line in the first quarter of 2015.
7. Of the 68 MWdc of community solar installations to date, more than one-third of that total has come on-line since 2014.
8. More than 5 GWdc of centralized PV has now been procured by utilities based on the economic competitiveness that solar has with fossil-fuel alternatives.
9. There are now over 22.7 GW of cumulative solar electric capacity operating in the U.S., enough to power more than 4.6 million average American homes.
10. Growth in 2014 was led by the utility-scale sector, which grew 38% over 2013 to reach nearly 4 (GW), and the residential sector, which crossed the 1 GW barrier for the first time while growing 51% over 2013. So far in 2015 utility scale segment is dominating once again, with 729 MW of installed capacity.
11. Since the implementation of the Solar Investment Tax Credit, in 2006, the cost to install solar has dropped by more than 75%.
12. On January 1, 2017, the 30% federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is scheduled to drop to 10% for third party owned residential, non-residential, and utility PV projects under Section 48 of the tax code, while the credit for purchases residential PV under Section 25d is scheduled to expire entirely.
13. In just over five years, the U.S. PV market, which doesn’t include concentrated solar plants, has witnessed a fourfold expansion, from an estimated $3 billion in 2009 to $13.4 billion last year.
14. While residential costs have dropped by 45% since 2010, utility-scale costs have dropped more significantly, with recent contracts at prices below $0.05/kWh.
15. There are many major U.S. corporations, including Walmart, Macy’s and IKEA, which are using solar at an incredible rate.
16. It would take as little as 0.0005% of the globe that would need to be covered in solar panels to power the entire world and knock out our carbon footprint.
17. The top three states for solar installations in 2015 are 1) California. 2) New York. and 3) Arizona. Other states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, Colorado, and Texas are also a huge part of the solar boom in the U.S.
18. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring California's utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by the end of 2020.
19. More than 31,000 solar jobs were added in the U.S. between November 2013 and November 2014. With 85 % of those jobs being new, rather than jobs that already existed but which added additional solar responsibilities. There are now around 200,000 people in the U.S. with jobs related to solar power, a number that’s increased by 87 percent over the last five years.
20. The SunShot Initiative was announced by the Department of Energy and aims to reduce the cost of solar power by 75% from 2010 to 2020. The name is based on "moon shot", Kennedy's target of reaching the moon within the decade.
Residential system prices reduced from $6/W to $1.50/W
Commercial system prices reduced from $5/W to $1.25/W
Utility-scale system prices reduced from $4/W to $1.00/W (CSP, CPV and PV)