How Big Will Solar Get by 2040?


The Energy Information Administration issues a new report predicting that 83 GW of renewable capacity will be added in the U.S. through 2040, with nearly half of that coming from solar PV. SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch responds to the report, urging a commitment to policies that support solar in the U.S.


A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that most new electric generation capacity in the U.S. through 2040 will come from natural gas and renewable energy. Of the 83 GW of renewable capacity additions being forecast, nearly half is expected to come from solar PV systems.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), commented on the report in a statement: “Solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy today – and, as this report bears out, it will continue to be for years and years to come. The continued, rapid deployment of solar nationwide will create thousands of new American jobs, pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy and help to significantly reduce pollution.”

Resch added, “Just as importantly, it will also provide Americans with the freedom to decide how to power their homes, businesses, schools and government facilities in the future. This report predicts that 60 percent of all new PV installations in the years ahead will be rooftop solar, creating significant savings when it comes to future energy costs.”

He also emphasized the importance of policy to solar’s continued growth: “This progress could be jeopardized if smart public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS), come under renewed attack by entrenched fossil fuel interests. Of immediate concern, we are strongly urging Congress to adopt ‘commence construction’ language this year, allowing project developers to take full advantage of the highly successful solar ITC and giving Americans access to new, affordable clean energy sources.”

It’s worth noting that the EIA is known for rather conservative projections. And even they point out that, well, it’s hard to predict the future: “Different assumptions for economic growth rates, fuel resources, demand expectations, and tax policies can have a considerable effect on projected capacity additions. Given the uncertainty surrounding these conditions, the AEO2014 examines a variety of cases with different assumptions.”

So can we expect even more new solar in the U.S. by 2040? We can’t predict the future any more than the EIA, but we think solar will grow at a rate that will surprise a lot of people. That’s the kind of surprise we can live with.