It’s Official: U.S. Solar Industry Had Record-Shattering Year in 2013

What would Alexandre Edmond Becquerel be thinking now?

In 1839, at the age of just 19, Becquerel built the world’s first photovoltaic panel, later inspiring the imaginations of millions of people worldwide, including legendary scientist Albert Einstein. Still, it took another 115 years before Bell Labs invented the first modern silicon solar cell. 

By comparison, it’s no stretch to say that the solar timeline has rocketed forward at warp speed in recent years.

So while 2013 was a record-breaking year for the U.S. solar industry, 2014 promises to be even better with 30 percent growth being forecast.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Continuing its explosive growth, the U.S. solar industry had another record-shattering year in 2013. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Solar Market Insight Year in Review 2013, photovoltaic (PV) installations expanded rapidly last year, increasing 41 percent over 2012 to reach 4,751 megawatts (MW) of new capacity. In addition, 410 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) came online in 2013. Consumers nationwide benefitted from this growth as the cost to install solar fell throughout the year, ending 15 percent below the record low set at the end of 2012.

When the final 2013 numbers were added up, there were 440,000 operating solar electric systems across the U.S., totaling more than 12,000 MW of PV and 918 MW of CSP.

What does this mean to you? Well today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America, generating enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to power more than 2.2 million homes—and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of our industry’s enormous potential. Last year alone, solar created tens of thousands of new American jobs and pumped tens of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy. In fact, more solar has been installed in the U.S. in the last 18 months than in the 30 previous years combined. That’s a remarkable record of achievement.

California continues to lead the U.S. market and installed more than half of all new U.S. solar in 2013. In fact, the Golden State installed more solar last year than the entire United States did in 2011. North Carolina, Massachusetts and Georgia also had major growth years in 2013, installing 663 megawatts (MW)—more than doubling their combined total from the year before. On the whole, the top five states (California, Arizona, North Carolina, Massachusetts and New Jersey) accounted for 81 percent of all U.S. PV installations in 2013.

Here are some of the other highlights of the report:

  • The amount of PV installed last year in the U.S. was nearly 15 times greater than the amount installed in 2008.
  • Q4 2013 was by far the largest quarter ever for PV installations in the U.S. with 2,106 MW energized, up 60 percent over the next largest quarter (Q4 2012).
  • The market value of all PV installations completed in 2013 was $13.7 billion.
  • Solar accounted for 29 percent of all new electricity generation capacity in 2013, up from 10 percent in 2012. This made solar the second-largest source of new generating capacity behind natural gas.
  • Weighted average PV system prices fell 15 percent in 2013, reaching a new low of $2.59/W in the fourth quarter.
  • The new report forecasts 26 percent PV installation growth in 2014, with installations reaching nearly 6 GW. Growth will occur in all segments but will be most rapid in the residential market.
  • The U.S. installed 410 MW of concentrating solar (CSP) in 2013, increasing total CSP capacity in the U.S. more than 80 percent.
  • And finally, Brightsource’s massive Ivanpah project began operating this year and SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes project began commissioning.

So while 2013 was a record-breaking year for the U.S. solar industry, 2014 promises to be even better with 30 percent growth being forecast. Part of this unprecedented expansion is due to the fact that the average price of a solar system has dropped by more than 50 percent since 2010, benefitting consumers, businesses, schools and government entities.

Today, 40 years after SEIA was first formed, there are nearly 143,000 Americans employed by the U.S. solar industry at more than 6,100 American companies—with SEIA leading the fight to expand markets, remove market barriers, strengthen the industry and educate Americans about the benefits of solar energy. These efforts have led to the adoption of a wide range of smart public policies, including the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in Congress and Net Energy Metering (NEM) at the state level.

And to think it all started when a 19-year-old in the 19th century came up with the idea of turning sunlight into electrical energy.

Merci, Monsieur Becquerel.

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

Show Comments ()
Marine debris laden beach in Hawaii. NOAA Marine Debris Program / Flickr

Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years

If we don't act now, plastic pollution in the world's oceans is projected to increase three-fold within seven years, according to a startling new report.

The Future of the Sea report, released Wednesday for the UK government, found that human beings across the globe produce more than 300 million metric tons of plastic per year. Unfortunately, a lot of that material ends up in our waters, with the total amount of plastic debris in the sea predicted to increase from 50 million metric tons in 2015 to 150 million metric tons by 2025.

Keep reading... Show less
Thawing permafrost in Noatak National Preserve, Alaska. NPS Climate Change Response

Methane Meltdown: Thawing Permafrost Could Release More Potent Greenhouse Gas Than Expected

A study published in Nature Climate Change Monday shows that thawing permafrost in the Arctic might produce more methane than previously thought. Methane has 28 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide, so the findings indicate scientists might have to reassess how thawing permafrost will contribute to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Solar shade canopies. University of Hawaii

This College Could Become the First 100% Renewable Campus in U.S.

As a growing number of U.S. cities make pledges towards 100 percent renewables, it's easy to forget that the entire state of Hawaii set this important benchmark three years ago when it mandated that all of its electricity must come from renewable sources no later than 2045.

To help the Aloha State meet this ambitious commitment, in 2015, the University of Hawaii (UH) and the Hawaiian Legislature set a collective goal for the university system to be "net-zero" by Jan. 1, 2035, which means the total amount of energy consumed is equal to the amount of renewable energy created.

Keep reading... Show less

Silver Nanoparticles in Clothing Wash Out, May Be Toxic

By Sukalyan Sengupta and Tabish Nawaz

Humans have known since ancient times that silver kills or stops the growth of many microorganisms. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have used silver preparations for treating ulcers and healing wounds. Until the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, colloidal silver (tiny particles suspended in a liquid) was a mainstay for treating burns, infected wounds and ulcers. Silver is still used today in wound dressings, in creams and as a coating on medical devices.

Keep reading... Show less
4.4 million premature air pollution deaths could be avoided in Kolkata if emissions are reduced swiftly this century. M M / CC BY-SA 2.0

Study Finds Timely Emissions Reductions Could Prevent 153 Million Air Pollution Deaths This Century

One of the roadblocks to swift action on climate change is the human brain's tendency to focus on threats and stimuli that are an obvious and noticeable part of their everyday lives, rather than an abstract and future problem, as Amit Dhir explained in The Decision Lab.

Now, a study published in Nature Climate Change Monday shows that acting quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions would also reduce the air pollution that is already a major urban killer, thereby saving millions of lives within the next 40 years.

Keep reading... Show less
Lands threatened by BLM's March 2018 sale include Hatch Point. Neal Clark / SUWA

Trump Administration Sells Oil and Gas Leases Near Utah National Monuments

The Interior Department on Tuesday is auctioning off 32 parcels of public lands in southeastern Utah for oil and gas development.

The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) lease sale includes more than 51,000 acres of land near Bears Ears—the national monument significantly scaled back by the Trump administration last year—as well as the Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients monuments.

Keep reading... Show less
Katharine Hayhoe talks climate communication hacks at the Natural Products Expo West Convention. Climate Collaborative

Katharine Hayhoe Reveals Surprising Ways to Talk About Climate Change

By Katie O'Reilly

Katharine Hayhoe isn't your typical atmospheric scientist. Throughout her career, the evangelical Christian and daughter of missionaries has had to convince many (including her pastor husband) that science and religion need not be at odds when it comes to climate change. Hayhoe, who directs Texas Tech's University's Climate Science Center, is CEO of ATMOS Research, a scientific consulting company, and produces the PBS Kids' web series Global Weirding, rose to national prominence in early 2012 after then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich dropped her chapter from a book he was editing about the environment. The reason? Hayhoe's arguments affirmed that climate change was no liberal hoax. The Toronto native attracted the fury of Rush Limbaugh, who encouraged his listeners to harass her.

Keep reading... Show less
Rising Tide NA / Twitter

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Protest Grows: Arrests Include a Greenpeace Founder, Juno-Nominated Grandfather

By Andy Rowell

Just because you get older, it doesn't mean you cannot stop taking action for what you believe in. And Monday was a case in point. Two seventy-year-olds, still putting their bodies on the line for environmental justice and indigenous rights.

Early Monday morning, the first seventy-year-old, a grandfather of two, and former nominee for Canada's Juno musical award, slipped into Kinder Morgan's compound at one of its sites for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline and scaled a tree and then erected a mid-air platform with a hammock up in the air.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!