Solar power in the US is now more affordable and accessible than ever before. Since 2008, US installations have grown 35-fold to an estimated 62.5 GW. This capacity is equivalent to the power consumed by 12 million average American homes. Since 2014, the cost of PV panels has dropped nearly 50% and the cost of installing solar has dropped by 70%. This has made solar energy and electricity economically competitive with conventional sources in several US states.
Solar jobs have also increased by nearly 160% since 2010, which is nine times the national average job growth rate in the last 5 years. The potential of solar in the US is staggering. Research suggest that PV panels on just 0.6% of the nation’s total land area could supply enough electricity to power the entire country. The manufacturing of solar parts is also booming, with it being the second largest sector in the solar industry.
Apart from PV solar systems, Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) in southwestern states is another resource that should be tapped into. These states have the technical potential and land area to site enough CSP to supply more than four times the current US annual electricity demand.
In 2018 alone, the solar industry generated a $17 billion investment in the American economy. Prices as of 2019 are at their lowest levels in history across all market segments with recent utility-scale prices ranging from $18/MWh to $35/MWh. In the last 6 years, solar has ranked 1st or 2nd in new electricity capacity additions. This has helped increase its share of total US electrical generation from just 0.1% in 2010 to more than 2.5% today.
Apart from utility-scale solar and residential solar installations, the rapid rise of community solar has boosted the non-residential segment in recent years. This coupled with an increasing number of both offsite and rooftop solar promises new streams of growth for the industry. Trends show us that installations will continue to grow across all market segments in 2020 and 2021 as prices drop.
Over the next 5 years, the total installed solar capacity will more than double, with cumulative deployment topping 100 GW by 2021. This growth is also spurred by the Fortune 500 companies who are investing in solar at incredible rates. The likes of Apple, Amazon, Target, and Walmart have all invested in renewable energy to save money and drive growth.
At this rate, analysts expect the US to reach the 3 million solar installation mark in 2021 and the 4 million mark in 2023. With a closer look at viable financing options, permits, and grid integration, solar looks like it’s here to stay and thrive.