Thursday, August 21, 2014

Solar's Prodigious Growth in the US

Home based solar, commercial scale solar and on-site solar for businesses are growing in the U.S. and around the world. US solar energy capacity grew 418 percent from 2010 to mid 2014 (2,326 megawatts to 12,057 megawatts).

Solar is one of the fastest-growing power sectors in the US and around the world. Over the last several years we have seen a 20 percent annual growth rate in the US solar industry. US solar power expanded by 100 percent in 2013.

In the US 143,000 people were employed in the solar industry in 2013, representing a growth rate of 50 percent since 2010. These people are employed at 5,600 companies across the country. The rate of utility solar installations more than doubled since 2012 and the US added more than 4,000 megawatts of photovoltaic power in 2013.

Globally the solar industry now provides more than 2.3 million jobs. This meteoric growth is being driven in large part by price declines. Solar panels now sell for 76 cents a watt compared with $2.01 at the end of 2010. The cost for installing this technology has also diminished by an astounding 60 percent since 2011.

Installations are expected to increase by as much as 29 percent in 2014. The industry may install 52 gigawatts in 2014 followed by 61 gigawatts in 2015. This represents a considerable increase over the 40 gigawatts installed in 2013. It is more than seven times the numbers we saw five years ago.

The growth of small-scale solar systems is expected to be a major force going forward. One of the areas expected to see the most rapid growth is home based solar. In California the number of rooftop solar panels doubled in 2013. The Interior Department plans to issue permits for solar projects for 6 million homes by 2020.

This growth will be further accelerated by expectations that electricity from residential solar panels will be cost-competitive with that delivered by local electric utilities in 2015.

Leading solar energy states are California, Arizona, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Nevada. The top five states with the most solar growth in 2013 were California, Arizona, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. The top five states by total number of solar jobs are California, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York.

Some of the notable projects are located in Lancaster California, Gainesville (feed-in tariff), North Carolina and Nevada (Apple's solar farms and data centers). Noteworthy campaigns that are helping to fuel this growth include Put Solar On It, a shared solar systems project known as Solar Gardens (which includes the Boulder Cowdery Meadows Solar Array in Colorado), the NYC Solar Map tool, and Solarize which buys solar panels in large quantities to make them affordable to home owners.

© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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