EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Our industry has come a long way in shaping solar into a serious source for America's energy needs and we are in a major growth mode.
By 2020, solar will quadruple in size to nearly 100 gigawatts (GW) of total capacity from just more than 25 GW today. By then, more than $150 billion will have been pumped into our economy and enough solar will have been installed to power 20 million American homes.
Why will this happen? In large part it's because the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) fought a successful battle to extend the solar investment tax credit (ITC) last December. Instead of allowing the ITC to drop down to 10 percent for commercial users and zero for residential users, SEIA pushed Congress to vote for a long-term extension.
Watch this new report to learn just how the solar industry beat the odds.
The industry isn't stopping with the pivotal ITC policy. Solar will make our nation proud and prosperous as a world leader in a new energy paradigm. A unified industry will be key in shepherding this exciting new era through.
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This year the Golden State will be hosting the Golden Anniversary of what many consider the greatest spectacle in all of professional sports and this year the game will be powered in part by golden rays of sunshine.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is counting down to the kick off between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, not just because we love the game, the multi-million dollar advertisements and the A-list halftime entertainment, but also because solar energy—our MVP—will be playing a starring role.
This year's big game will be played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Home to the San Francisco 49ers, Levi's Stadium is the first professional football stadium in the National Football League (NFL) to open with LEED Gold certification. The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification program recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. LEED certified buildings save money and resources and have positives impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy.
Solar was a key strategy in the 49ers' sustainability playbook. The solar at the stadium through NRG's installations produces 375 kilowatts (kW) of peak power from more than 1,150 solar panels. In fact, the system can generate enough power in a year to meet electricity demand during every 49ers' home game. The first area of the NRG solar installation is the three NRG Bridges that lead fans into Levi's from the Red Parking Lot. The second is the NRG Solar Terrace which overlooks the football field and Silicon Valley from the top of the stadium.
“NRG was a true partner with us in building this stadium," Ethan Casson, 49ers chief revenue officer, said. “We could not have achieved LEED Gold certification without them."
San Jose-based SunPower built all of the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels for Levi's—544 on the stadium roof and another 642 on the NRG Energy Bridges, footbridges for fans that connect a main parking area to the stadium. In addition to producing power, the solar panels act as a shade canopy for the bridges and terrace.
“This year's big game is making environmental history as fans root for their favorite team, playing in the NFL's first LEED Gold certified stadium featuring SunPower high efficiency solar panels," Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO, said. “At SunPower, we're proud to support our progressive commercial business partners that are making wise economic and environmental investments with solar."
In 2015, nearly a third of the NFL teams played or trained at stadiums with on-site solar assets. That's 8,000 solar PV panels, generating more than 10 million kilowatt-hours per year.
And there is more to come, with a new system under contract with the Baltimore Ravens and one in planning for the Atlanta Falcons. That's not to mention the nearly 1 million solar systems that are installed on homes and businesses across the country.
"It's a movement across the country—become more sustainable," Al Guido, 49ers chief operating officer, said. “And stadiums have to do their part. But we wanted to be functionally green, not just green for green's sake."
Hosting the game in the state-of-the-art Levi's Stadium is a major play for solar energy and part of a strong sustainability statement.
As NFL teams look for ways to keep their hometown fans cheering, investing in money-saving, 21st century technology like solar is a touchdown in everyone's playbook.
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This year will go down as a banner year for solar energy. We expect new solar installations to reach a record-breaking 7.4 gigawatts (GW) by year's end. And yet, the 2015 record is already looking like a distant memory compared to what is to come.
America's solar boom is far from busting. In fact, solar will more than triple in size from just more than 24 GW of total capacity to nearly 100 GW by 2020. By that point, there will be enough solar installed to power 20 million American homes.
A new #solar system was activated every 1.6 minutes in Q3! #GoSolar #SolarIsNow https://t.co/jASaUrFlvg @SunBaca https://t.co/f8Rb7eLqjo— Solar Industry (@Solar Industry)1449681093.0
The more rapid growth is projected because solar companies have received and will continue to receive reliable and supportive federal policies. These allow them to mature, employ hundreds of thousands of American workers and pump billions of dollars in new investments into the American economy along the way.
New Solar Era
Sustained growth for one of America's newest and most cutting-edge industries was solidified last week when Congress passed a bipartisan spending bill. This seemingly routine legislation is historic because it brings the solar industry to the forefront of the conversation about American energy.
Instead of the solar investment tax credit (ITC) dropping down to 10 percent for commercial users and zero for residential users at the end of 2016, Congress took action that will help solar drive America toward its clean energy future.
The bill included modifications to the tax code that extended both the residential and commercial sections of the ITC. Specifically, there is a long-term extension for both residential and commercial solar users with a gradual phase down over the next five years, as well as a permanent 10 percent tax credit for commercial users.
ITC Extension and Phase Down Schedule
- 2017: 30 percent
- 2018: 30 percent
- 2019: 30 percent
- 2020: 26 percent
- 2021: 22 percent
- 2022 and beyond: permanent 10 percent for commercial credit
For the first time, the legislation also allows for users to claim the credit when construction of their projects begins as long as the projects are placed in service by Dec. 31, 2023.
Thank you to everyone who answered our calls for action and helped #SaveTheITC. The future looks bright! https://t.co/xrcxB8kjGN— Solar Industry (@Solar Industry)1450735560.0
The Industry Took Action With ITC
This powerful victory would not have been possible without the industry calling on Congress to stand with solar and the American people.
#SolarIsNow https://t.co/bPqMkw4j3i— Solar Industry (@Solar Industry)1450459718.0
At SEIA's urging, Americans sent nearly 35,000 letters and made countless phone calls to their representatives in Congress, and industry leaders published nearly 100 columns and letters in community newspapers throughout the country.
The solar industry now has a seat at the table with the nation's major electricity producers and it will continue to power more and more of America for years to come.
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America's biggest brands are choosing solar, not only for the environmental benefits but also for the boost it can bring to their bottom lines.
The report revealed that the amount of solar installed by America’s top companies has nearly tripled since the first edition was released.
The top 25 companies in SEIA’s Solar Means Business Report installed more than 1,278 individual systems this year. Photo Credit: SEIA
Walmart is once again America’s commercial solar leader for the third year in a row with nearly 142 megawatts (MW) installed at 348 installations across its locations.
The release of SEIA’s new rankings of the top corporate solar users in America coincides with commitments made by Walmart and 80 other U.S. companies to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.
By signing the pledge, these companies provided new and ongoing plans for reducing, avoiding and mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) levels in their operations. The pledge was also a showing of strong support to leaders from around the world who are meeting in Paris this week to solidify broader commitments from countries that are working to address climate change.
These companies are influential and successful brands that have operations in all 50 states, employ more than nine million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue and have a combined market capitalization of more than $5 trillion.
Deploying more clean energy is a significant way these companies are reducing their emissions and building more sustainable businesses.
In 2014, 26 percent of Walmart’s electricity was generated from renewable sources. In fact, Walmart pledged to double the number of on-site solar energy projects at its U.S. stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers by 2020, compared with its 2013 baseline.
Choosing to go solar is a surefire way for companies to take action on climate, but it’s also a smart business decision.
For commercial users, average electricity rates have increased more than 20 percent in 10 years, moving from eight cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to more than 10 cents per kWh.
This report shows that companies are taking advantage of this cost savings by increasingly adopting solar or adding to their existing systems to power their operations.
While the report does not provide a complete dataset of corporate solar systems in the U.S., the companies sampled installed 1,686 systems totaling 907 MW, generating enough electricity to power more than 158,000 homes.
This represents a 59 percent increase over the findings of last year's report.
Commercial solar prices are the lowest they have ever been and are continuing to fall, making solar a cost-effective decision that pays in both dividends for the environment and the bottom line.
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Solar companies like GRID Alternatives are changing lives, and Solar Energy Industries Association captured it on film during a job fair at Solar Power International in Anaheim, California in September.
The U.S. solar industry employs 174,000 Americans nationwide, but this number is so much more than a piece of data. This number represents the people who are directly behind an energy revolution, whose stories encapsulate the very essence of solar’s character.
When it comes to both ethnic and gender diversity, the solar industry surpasses the oil, gas and coal industries. Photo credit: GRID Alternatives
174,000 are transforming America.
The solar workforce is diversifying our nation’s power grid—through the rooftops of your homes, your community’s solar gardens, churches and businesses and through your utility’s large-scale solar plants.
Their work updating America’s electric grid with 21st century technologies, like solar, is offering consumers more choices and diversifying our power sources.
But what 174,000 does not immediately represent is the growing diversity of people behind the number. According to The Solar Foundation’s most recent jobs census, solar is for everyone.
When it comes to both ethnic and gender diversity, the solar industry surpasses the oil, gas and coal industries. For example, at 16.3 percent, the solar industry’s employment rate for Latino or Hispanic individuals is three percentage points higher than the entire U.S. employment rate for Latinos or Hispanics. Women also account for 21.6 percent of the solar industry’s total workforce.
With the demand for solar energy now higher than ever, the workforce is projected to grow by more than 36,000 jobs by the end of the year alone. And the industry is ramping up its training and recruitment opportunities to ensure its workforce continues to be as diverse as its consumers.
In fact, the solar industry is committed to becoming the most diverse energy sector in the nation, as Americans from all walks of life take advantage of the benefits of solar and its cascading price tag.
#Solar is one of the fastest-growing, most diverse & engaging industries in America. Solar is for everyone. http://t.co/7RaUVIQGpa— Solar Industry (@Solar Industry)1445277502.0
Solar already employs a higher percentage rate of veterans than the total U.S. workforce, but the industry upped the ante this spring by committing to having 50,000 U.S. veterans working in solar by 2020.
But the industry cannot keep its commitment to provide well-paying jobs for more Americans if Congress makes a wrong decision on a looming federal policy. The solar investment tax credit (ITC) provides a 30 percent tax credit to commercial and residential solar users, which has helped the solar industry crack 22 gigawatts for the first time in history this summer.
Under the policy, total U.S. solar capacity is expected to double over the next two years. But if the ITC is allowed to expire from its current levels on Dec. 31, 2016, 100,000 jobs could be lost nationwide.
There is more work to do, and more Americans who are eager to help solar drive America to its new clean energy future. Tell Congress 174,000 isn’t enough.
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Solar energy is on the upsurge, representing 40 percent of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the first half of 2015, according to a new report today from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
The Q2 2015 edition of the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report revealed the U.S. solar industry installed 1,393 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaics (PV) during the second quarter of 2015, bringing total solar capacity nationwide to 22.7 gigawatts (GW).
We now have enough solar installed in the U.S. to power 4.6 million homes and the momentum for solar is just beginning. Because of solar’s cost competitiveness, the demand for solar energy is now higher than ever.
According to the report, 729 MW of utility-scale solar PV—the lion’s share of new solar capacity—came on-line. Homeowners also spurred the residential market to set a quarterly record with 473 MW of solar PV.
For perspective on the uptick of homeowners adopting solar, a total of 10 states installed more than 10 MW of residential solar during the quarter. Only four states installed that much of residential solar during the same time in 2013.
Thanks to the solar investment tax credit (ITC), which was passed in 2006, prices for utility-scale solar have fallen 64 percent since 2010, while the average price of a residential PV installation is now 48 percent lower than 2010.
In fact, since the ITC was enacted, more than 22 GW of solar capacity have come on-line. That’s 97 percent of all solar capacity ever installed.
More solar will be installed in one week in 2015 than was installed in all of 2006 and that has translated into the creation of more than 150,000 new solar jobs over that time period.
More than ever, this report shows how crucial it is for America to maintain smart, effective, forward-looking public policies, like the ITC.
An additional 16.6 GW of utility-scale solar is in the development pipeline—40 percent of which has been procured based purely on cost competitiveness with fossil fuels.
With the ITC scheduled to drop at the end of 2016, that progress is threatened.
As an industry, we’re strongly urging lawmakers to support extending the ITC to ensure that solar remains one of America’s fastest-growing energy sources for years to come.
America deserves a level playing field among energy producers so that we can continue diversifying our power sources, offering more consumer choices and boosting the national economy.
The U.S. installed 2.7 GW of PV in the first six months of 2015. With significant growth expected in the second half of the year, the U.S. is on pace for a record-breaking 7.7 GW year.
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Only exceeded by China, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, with the largest source of emissions coming from electricity generation. America is changing its course and the U.S. solar energy industry is leading the way on this new road; a path to a clean energy future.
Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan, which sets the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. This is a historic step in America’s clean energy future and a strong show of confidence in the capability of the country’s newest energy vehicles: renewables.
This strong action on climate change, however, is not a “leap of faith” for the solar industry. Solar energy is no longer a niche technology or a futuristic energy source. Thanks to improved technology and cascading prices, solar is already powering American homes and businesses today.
Communities, homeowners, businesses and utilities have made solar one of America’s fastest-growing energy sources with more than 20 gigawatts of total installed capacity. Smart policies like the Clean Power Plan will help the country to continue replacing its aging and dirty energy engine with even more 21st Century technologies.
To ensure solar’s full potential was realized in the policy, SEIA spent the past several years meeting with the White House and EPA officials to educate them about the current state of the solar market and the solar industry’s growth potential. Additionally, SEIA submitted robust comments, providing the EPA with the most up-to-date solar cost and deployment data for all market segments.
In just the first three months of 2015, residential solar system installations showed tremendous growth—the best quarter for the segment ever. The top U.S. commercial solar users also have more than 569 megawatts of solar power at 1,110 different facilities.
As solar prices continue to fall, more and more Americans are turning to solar to cut costs and avoid carbon emissions. Solar in the utility-scale pipeline has also reached unprecedented levels, with the segment totaling 63 percent of all solar capacity in 2014.
As part of a balanced energy portfolio, energy providers are using solar to improve grid reliability and provide significant relief to existing energy infrastructure by reducing transmission losses and relieving grid congestion. The speed of solar deployment, along with the modularity of solar, is also helping energy providers meet incremental generation needs. For instance, concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, combined with thermal energy storage, can produce electricity when needed, long after the sun goes down.
By the end of 2016, there will be enough solar energy in the U.S. to power 8 million homes, offsetting nearly 45 million metric tons of carbon emissions. At this pace, a whopping 50,000 more megawatts of solar power is projected to come on-line before 2020.
The Clean Power Plan will only make solar’s growth more rapid, as all 50 states seek clean, affordable, reliable and carbon-free solutions under the plan’s emissions targets.
The solar industry is confident that there is potential for more of America’s power grid to fuel up with more solar. SEIA spoke, and the EPA clearly listened. Thanks to efforts of SEIA and its member companies, the Clean Power Plan includes:
- carbon reduction goals for states that are 9 percent tougher than originally proposed;
- all solar technologies as compliance options for states;
- 30 percent more renewables as compliance options than originally proposed;
- a renewable energy incentive program that will spur early investment in solar energy; and
- more flexibility to help states implement solar energy policies to meet their emissions goals.
Solar energy is available within every geographic region of the U.S., making it the most sensible compliance option under the Clean Power Plan. In fact, the industry is already seeing a broad spectrum of adopters across the country, with 25 states installing more than 10 megawatts and 20 states installing more than 100 megawatts of solar capacity just last year.
States that choose to go solar are not only standing up to the challenge of curbing carbon emissions while keeping pace with America’s growing energy demand, but they are also choosing to invest in job growth.
The solar industry has added 100,000 new jobs in the last decade. Today, the U.S. solar industry employs nearly 174,000 Americans—more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined—and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into the economy.
The Clean Power Plan presents a tremendous opportunity for renewable energy development, and solar is poised to be the No. 1 solution as America cleans up its power grid.
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Today, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released the latest edition of the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, which revealed the first three months of 2015 as the best quarter for residential solar system installations—ever.
In fact, solar represented a whopping 51 percent of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the first quarter (Q1) of 2015, outpacing even natural gas.
The U.S. installed 1,306 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in Q1 2015, marking the sixth consecutive quarter in which the U.S. added more than one gigawatt (GW) of PV installations.
Residential solar led the way, growing by 76 percent over the first quarter of 2014, with 437 megawatts (MW) of residential PV installations. That’s an 11 percent jump over last quarter, the market segment’s previous high-water mark.
But the other solar market segments showed strength, too. In fact, the industry as a whole is on track for another record year in 2015, with 66,440 total individual solar systems coming on-line this quarter. That means nearly 700,000 systems are now generating solar power in the U.S.
The non-residential segment installed 225 MW in the first quarter of the year, with five of the six largest non-residential state markets growing over Q1 2014.
Continuing to carry the largest share of the market, the utility segment installed 644 MW which represents 49 percent of new PV capacity brought on-line in Q1 2015. Despite this being the smallest quarter for the segment since 2013, utility PV installations have now surpassed 500 MW for eight consecutive quarters. What’s more, the report notes that there are now 25 project developers with projects in development of 100 MW or more.
Here are some other key findings from the report:
- The U.S. installed 1,306 MW of solar PV in Q1 2015, marking the sixth consecutive quarter in which the U.S. added more than 1 GW of PV installations.
- The residential and utility PV market segments each added more capacity than the natural gas industry brought on-line in Q1 2015.
- Collectively, more than 51 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. came from solar in Q1 2015.
- 66,440 individual solar systems came online in Q1 2015, bringing the total to nearly 700,000 nationwide.
- The average cost for a residential solar system is now $3.48/watt, 10 percent lower than this time last year.
- More than one-third of all community solar installations have come on-line since 2014.
- More than 5 GW of centralized PV has now been procured by utilities based on solar’s economic competitiveness with fossil-fuel alternatives.
- Through Q1 2015, nearly one-fourth of cumulative residential solar installations have now come on-line without any state incentive.
- PV installations are forecast to reach 7.9 GW in 2015, up 27 percent over 2014. Growth will occur in all segments, but will be most rapid in the residential market.
- 2014 was the largest year ever for concentrating solar power, with 767 MW brought on-line. The next notable CSP project slated for completion is SolarReserve’s 110 MW Crescent Dunes, which entered the commissioning phase in 2014 and is expected to become fully operational before the end of 2015.
Today’s report proves just how effective establishing and maintaining forward-looking public policies, like the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), are to the industry.
The ITC has helped solar to become the fastest-growing renewable energy source in America. Why? Simply put, the ITC provides important market certainty, encouraging companies to make long-term investments that drive competition and technological innovation, while lowering costs to consumers.
But the best is yet to come. By the end of 2016, the U.S. will be generating enough clean solar energy to power 8 million homes, helping to offset 45 million metric tons of damaging carbon emissions—the equivalent of removing 10 million cars off our roads and highways.
No matter how you look at it, that’s a win all the way around!
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From the end of 2004 through the end of 2014, the deployment of solar energy in the U.S. grew at an unprecedented rate, according to a new video report, Solar Energy in the United States: A Decade of Record Growth, released yesterday by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
According to a detailed SEIA analysis, in 2004, there were 500 megawatts (MW) of solar energy installed nationwide. But by the end of 2014, there were 20,000 MW—enough to power more than 4 million homes—with 97 percent of that capacity added after passage of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Over the same time period, the cumulative investment in installed solar installations in the U.S. soared from $2.6 billion to $71.1 billion.
And from an environmental perspective, by 2016, solar is expected to offset more than 45 million metric tons of damaging carbon emissions—the equivalent of removing 10 million cars off U.S. roads and highways, or shuttering 12 coal-fired plants.
Our new video report is not only filled with important information like this, but it tells solar energy’s tremendous success story in a fun and visually-interesting way. For example, did you know that in 2004 only two states had 10 MW of installed solar capacity, yet a decade later, 35 states had topped that threshold—and 20 states had more than 100 MW? But here’s the best news: we expect to double our total capacity in the next two years alone.
Here are some other key takeaways from SEIA’s analysis:
In 2004, approximately 15,500 homes had solar photovoltaic (PV) installations across the U.S. Through the end of 2014, that number had grown to 600,000.
From 2004 to 2014, the number of utility-scale solar projects in the U.S.—both PV and concentrated solar power (CSP)—increased by more than 10-fold, growing from 100 projects to nearly 1,100 projects spread across 30 states.
From 2004 to 2014, the amount of installed utility-scale solar capacity in the U.S. increased by more than 30 times, from 365 MW to 11,440 MW.
In 2004, the U.S. had 58 MW of total solar capacity. In 2014, 14 states installed that much solar or more, with a record total 7,000 MW coming online nationwide.
Over the 10-year period studied, the average price of an installed residential PV system dropped by more than 60 percent, and utility-scale prices plummeted by more than 73 percent.
In 2014, for the first time in history, each of the three major U.S. market segments—utility-scale, commercial and residential—all installed more than 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar PV.
Most importantly, the tremendous growth of solar energy in the U.S. has translated into tens of thousands of new jobs. In 2004, there were less than 20,000 people at work in the U.S. solar industry. Through 2014, that number had soared to 174,000—with new jobs being added every day. Without question, effective, forward-looking public policies, like the solar ITC, Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), are helping to drive solar energy’s remarkable growth. Because of these polices, we should be generating enough clean electricity to power more than 8 million American homes by the end of 2016, benefitting both our economy and environment, while providing homeowners, businesses, schools, nonprofits and government officials at all levels with real choices in how they meet their electricity needs in the future.
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In 1970, the first ever Earth Day was held to demonstrate broad global support for environmental protection. At the time, the world’s population stood at 3.63 billion. Today, that number has more than doubled.
Well, guess what? Greenhouse gas emissions have doubled since then, too. Simply put, the world is in real danger, locked in on a collision course with disaster.
It’s time to be honest with ourselves. We’re facing a watershed moment in our nation’s history. Today, climate change is a real and growing threat to America and the rest of the world. It’s indisputable. Sea levels are rising. We’re experiencing more intense and unpredictable storms. And droughts plague the world. Clearly, climate change threatens our economy, our future progress, our health and safety, and even our way of life. Every day, the Earth suffers a little more from human neglect. We can’t wish this problem away, and pointing fingers won’t solve it, either.
In celebration of today’s 45th annual Earth Day, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) plans to mark the historic occasion every 2.5 minutes of every hour of the day, as a new solar installation is completed in America. What’s more, new figures from the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review show a record amount of new, clean solar energy coming online over the next 20 months, greatly benefitting the environment.
When the very first Earth Day was held, there was virtually no solar energy powering the grid in the U.S. How times have changed. Today, there are 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity in the U.S.—enough to power more than 4 million American homes—and we’re going to double both of those numbers by the end of next year. That’s our commitment to America—and to our planet. By the end of 2016, solar is expected to offset nearly 45 million metric tons of harmful carbon emissions, the equivalent of removing nearly 10 million cars off U.S. roads and highways, or shuttering 12 coal-fired plants. That’s a pretty impressive “high five” for our environment.
Consider what’s happened. It took 40 years for the U.S. to install its first 20 GW of solar, but the nation will add another 20 GW by the end of 2016. Here are some of the other projections from the latest SEIA/GTM Research report:
- 16 states will install more than 100 megawatts (MW) of solar in 2016. In 2010, only two states did.
- In 2016, California is expected to install as much solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity as the entire country did in 2014.
- The U.S. will surpass 1 million residential solar installations during the next two years.
- Solar will be close to generating 2 percent of America’s electricity needs by the end of 2016. In 2010, solar represented just 0.1 percent of capacity.
- All solar market sectors—residential, non-residential and utility scale—are expected to grow by 25 to 50 percent over the next two years.
Today, the U.S. solar industry employs 174,000 Americans nationwide—more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined—and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into our economy. This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the U.S. economy, as well as for the environment. For our industry, this truly is an exciting and promising time to be celebrating Earth Day. As the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words,” and every new solar system that comes online today represents a win for the future of our planet.
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Today, there are nearly 17,000 veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are working in the solar energy industry. Well, that number is about to grow substantially.
In a decision that’s certain to help to speed up America’s transition to a clean energy future, President Obama announced today that the Department of Energy (DOE) will launch a new initiative to train 75,000 Americans—including military veterans—to enter the solar workforce by 2020. The President made the announcement at Hill Air Force Base in Utah as part of a roundtable discussion on clean energy technology and workforce training with Sen. Orin Hatch, Congressman Rob Bishop and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
This new initiative will provide a big boost to the U.S. economy, while also helping to maintain solar energy’s explosive jobs growth. I’ll make this promise: With stable public policies in place, we will not only meet the President’s goal of adding 75,000 new solar jobs in America by 2020, but we will blow past it!
Today, the solar industry already employs 174,000 workers nationwide—more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined—and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into our economy. This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both our economy and environment.
According to The Solar Foundation’s 2014 National Jobs Census, the solar industry in America is becoming increasingly diverse, with minorities, women and veterans representing a growing percentage of the workforce. Over the past five years alone, the industry has added more than 80,000 new employees—an increase of 86 percent.
Also, as part of today’s announcement, the White House will work to make G.I. Bill funding available to support solar workforce training. Dating back to 1944, the G.I. Bill has been widely hailed by historians as one of America’s most successful economic and political programs.
With approximately 200,000 U.S. servicemen and women leaving the military each year, much more needs to be done to help them find civilian jobs and meaningful workforce training. As an industry, we are uniquely positioned to help. Record-breaking growth in solar energy installations nationwide requires a growing and skilled solar workforce. We applaud the President and his administration for undertaking this new initiative, and we’re prepared, and excited, to do our part to help. We look forward to more and more of our military veterans becoming solar veterans, too!
The White House’s new workforce training initiative closely tracks U.S. public opinion. A new Gallup Poll shows that 91 percent of Americans want to see more emphasis, or the same emphasis as today, on producing solar energy. Compared to oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear and other renewables, solar was the only energy source to show an increase in public favorability when compared to results of a similar nationwide poll taken by Gallup in 2013.
Today, there are 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity in the U.S.—enough to power more than 4 million homes—with another 20 GW projected to come online by the end of 2016. What’s spurring this rapid growth? For one thing, solar energy is now more affordable than ever. According to SEIA/GTM Research, national blended average system prices have dropped 53 percent since 2010.
The solar industry is also helping to fight climate change. Last year, solar helped to offset 22.3 million metric tons of harmful carbon emissions, the equivalent of removing 4.7 million cars off America’s highways and roads, or not using 2.5 billion gallons of gasoline.
Every 2.5 minutes of every single day, the U.S. solar industry is helping to fight climate change by flipping the switch on another completed solar project. We’re proud that solar accounted for one-third of all new electric generation capacity last year in the U.S. And, frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our industry’s enormous potential. As the old saying goes, the sky’s the limit.
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Today’s new economy is driven by industries that are characterized by cutting-edge technology and high growth. Sound familiar? Well, it should.
Remarkably, America’s solar energy industry, which continues to grow at a very brisk pace, now has more employees than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined. And to top it all off, 2014 turned out to be another record-shattering year!
GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) have just released the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review report, the definitive source of installation data, forecasting and policy analysis for the U.S. solar market. Newly installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity for the year reached a record 6,201 megawatts (MW), growing 30 percent over 2013’s total. An additional 767 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) came on-line in the same period.
Solar accounted for one-third of our nation’s new generating capacity in 2014, beating out both wind energy and coal for the second year in a row. Only natural gas constituted a greater share of new generating capacity.
Without question, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has helped to fuel our industry’s tremendous growth. Since the ITC was passed in 2006, more than 150,000 solar jobs have been created in America, and $66 billion has been invested in solar installations nationwide. We now have 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity—enough to power 4 million U.S. homes—and we’re helping to reduce harmful carbon emissions by 20 million metric tons a year. By any measurement, the ITC has been a huge success for both our economy and environment.
In 2014, for the first time in history, each of the three major U.S. market segments—utility, commercial and residential—installed more than 1 gigawatt (GW) of PV.
The U.S. utility-scale segment broke the GW mark in 2011 and has since grown by nearly 1 GW annually. In 2014, 3.9 GW of utility-scale PV projects came on-line with another 14 GW of projects under contract.
The commercial segment in the U.S. also installed more than 1 GW in 2011 but has not shared the same success as the utility-scale segment. In 2014, the commercial segment installed just over 1 GW, down 6 percent from 2013. The report notes, “Many factors have contributed to this trend, ranging from tight economics to difficulty financing small commercial installations.” But GTM Research expects 2015 to be a bounce-back year for the commercial segment, highlighted by a resurgence in California.
The U.S. residential segment’s 1.2 GW in 2014 marks its first time surpassing 1 GW. Residential continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the U.S., with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50 percent annual growth.
Here are some additional key findings:
- More than one-third of all cumulative operating PV capacity in the U.S. came on line in 2014.
- By the end of 2014, 20 states eclipsed the 100 MW mark for cumulative operating solar PV installations, and California alone is home to 8.7 GW.
- Growth remains driven primarily by the utility solar PV market, which installed 1.5 GW in Q4 2014, the largest quarterly total ever for any market segment.
- PV installations are forecast to reach 8.1 GW in 2015, up 59 percent over 2014.
- 2014 was the largest year ever for concentrating solar power, with 767 MW brought on line. Notable project completions include the 392 MW Ivanpah project. Genesis Solar project’s second phase of 125 MW and Abengoa’s Mojave Solar (250 MW), which achieved commercial operation in December 2014.
- All solar projects completed in 2014 represent $17.8 billion in investment ($13.4 billion in PV and $4.4 billion in CSP).
- As of the end of 2014, cumulative operating PV in the U.S. totaled 18.3 GW and cumulative operating CSP totaled 1.7 GW.
What’s spurring this rapid growth? For one thing, solar energy is now more affordable than ever. According to SEIA/GTM Research, national blended average system prices have dropped 53 percent since 2010.
Simply put, when looking at America’s energy future, solar can be a real game changer, providing more and more homes, businesses, schools and government entities across the U.S. with clean, reliable and affordable electricity, while also helping states to meet proposed new obligations under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. That’s a win-win in anyone’s book!
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