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Solar Year in Review

October 3, 2016

As the sun sets on another summer, it’s time to stop and take the temperature of the solar market. In 2015 the industry grew at a record pace, and it shows no sign of slowing down. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, it is on track to nearly double in size and capacity nationwide by the end of 2016. In the last quarter alone enough solar photovoltaic energy capacity was added to power 6.2 million homes, and by the end of the year an estimated 16 new gigawatts of solar photovoltaic will have been installed, bringing the total solar capacity of the U.S. to a whopping 25.6 GW. Three-quarters of that new capacity will be generated through large-scale utility projects; the rest will come from commercial and residential installations.

What’s driving this unprecedented growth? Well, for one, the cost has plummeted in recent years — and is predicted to keep falling. In the ten years since the Solar Investment Tax Credit was implemented the installation costs for photovoltaic panels have dropped by 70 percent, and the trend of overall, costs of solar installation are down 18 percent from last year, and 63 percent lower than they were just five years ago.

Solar energy is also creating jobs: right now, almost 209,000 Americans work in solar. By 2020 that number’s expected to more than double, with an anticipated 420,000 jobs nationwide. And while, unsurprisingly, California dominates the solar market, the industry is actually going strong in all 50 states, including in some nontraditional spots such as Texas and Utah, which led the pack in residential growth.

While solar is well established as a cost-efficient and environmentally savvy choice for homeowners, business leaders such as IKEA, Wal-Mart, and Target are leading the charge in the commercial sector. To date there are commercial solar projects up and running in 38 states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

The global picture: The United States is the fastest developing market for solar in the world, with an annual growth in capacity that now surpasses other solar-friendly countries like Japan and Germany. In fact, in 2016, our solar energy capacity exceeded that of natural gas for the first time ever. So while winter may be coming, there are still even sunnier days ahead, with more than 53.3 gigawatts of solar projects under construction or in development nationwide.

So, as the sun sets on another (and maybe the hottest on record) summer, the growth of solar is very much continuing to heat up!


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