THE LATEST THINKING
The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.
The solar energy industry has burgeoned over the past decade and looks to continue that trend into the future. In the U.S., lower prices, ongoing tax incentives, and a focus on reducing carbon emissions is maintaining the health of the renewable energy industry.
If 2018 follows the pattern set over the past 11 years, then solar energy generation will achieve yet another milestone in added capacity by the end of December. All around the world, communities are adopting renewable energy sources as their primary power generators, to reduce carbon emissions and respond to climate change concerns. In the U.S., the trend to renewables is as strong as ever, and getting stronger.
More Solar Installations Added Every Year
Since 2008, America's solar industry has seen a 59 percent average annual growth rate, which includes added solar power capacity in both residential and commercial uses, and by utilities, including the addition of "Concentrating Solar Power" plants. In 2016, the industry experienced its single greatest year, with residential and commercial capacity surpassing 4,000 megawatts (MW), and utility installations surpassing 11,000 MW, for a combined total of over 15,000 MW. The added electricity surge can power over 10 million American homes or every residence in Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South and North Dakota, Vermont, Alaska and Wyoming, combined.
Growing Local and National Economies ...
Employment-wise, the solar industry is also powering forward progress. Since 2010, the sector has added 140,000 new jobs, growing from approximately 90,000 back then, to over 260,000 in 2016. Those jobs spread out across the industry, too, and include salespeople, installers, manufacturing workers, project development specialists, and more.
... By Becoming Increasingly Economical
As the volume of solar-generated electricity has grown, its price to consumers has dropped. Back in 2009, the price of a single watt of solar-generated power cost the purchaser $7.50. Considering that the average house consumed over 10,700 watts in 2016, the expense of electricity from the renewable energy source was beyond the reach of most consumers.
Fast forward, however, to 2017, and you'll see that the price per watt has dropped to about $2.60. The newly affordable energy option responded to the environmental concerns of millions of Americans, who not only invested in solar energy for personal and commercial use but who were also rewarded for doing so by the federal government's Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The ITC provides a 30% tax credit for both commercial and residential solar installations, and its availability drove the growth of the industry by over 1,600% since its inception in 2006. In 2015, Congress renewed the ITC through to the end of 2021, and the recent tax overhaul of 2017 retained the renewable energy tax credit opportunity.
Shining a Light on a Bright Future
Looking forward, the popularity of solar energy as an electricity source will continue to grow both around the globe and in the United States. With over 53 GW (1 GW = 1,000 MW) already installed and another 5 GW on track for installation before the end of 2022, America is on its way to transforming its electricity infrastructure while reducing its carbon contributions to climate change.
The sun is shining on the solar power industry, especially utility scale solar. Over the past several months, the solar sector...