As people around the world celebrate Earth Day, we take a look at just a few of the reasons the solar industry has to celebrate. And what’s good for the solar industry is good for all of us — and for the Earth.
Happy Earth Day! Solar has had its ups and downs, but this Earth Day, the solar industry has a lot to celebrate. Here are just a few of the signs that solar power in the U.S. is becoming a force to be reckoned with — while helping the Earth and its resident humans.
1. Solar keeps growing — fast!
The U.S. solar industry had a record-shattering 2013, according to the Solar Market Insight Year in Review 2013 report. Solar PV installations grew 41% over 2012, and at the end of 2013, solar operating capacity in the U.S. totaled over 12,000 MW of PV and 918 MW of CSP. That’s a lot of solar!
Speaking of records, California is breaking its own solar generation records at such a fast rate that the California Independent System Operator has decided it will now announce new records only every 500 MW, instead of every 50 MW.
Throughout the U.S., in Q1 2014, solar and other renewables accounted for 92% of all new generating capacity, with the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicting that they will provide 16% of U.S. net electrical generation by the year 2040. More solar is being added than fossil fuels.
2. Solar keeps getting cheaper
While conventional power prices keep going up, solar is 99% cheaper than it was in 1977. And the rate of cost decreases has been speeding up, with 30% of that drop happening in just the past two years.
In more and more situations, solar can even be cheaper than fossil fuels.
The trend is not stopping yet. There’s still a lot of room for solar to get even cheaper, especially with the SunShot Initiative to lower soft costs.
3. Solar keeps creating more jobs
Just last year, over 23,000 solar jobs were created in the U.S., bringing total solar industry employment to 142,698 Americans.
And solar jobs grew a lot more than most others. From September 2012 to November 2013, the solar industry experienced job growth of 19.9% — 10 times faster than the national average rate of 1.9% for the same period.
That doesn’t even include indirect jobs that support the industry, like those in the facility supply chain.
At a time when the nation still faces high unemployment, the solar jobs trend is definitely something to celebrate.
4. Solar keeps gaining popularity
Solar’s popularity is growing as more people know someone who has gone solar or have done it themselves. A recent national poll found that 88% of American homeowners believe solar and other renewables are important for America’s energy future, while 69% want more choices on where to get their energy. A significant 62% said they would even be interested in solar for their own home.
Another recent poll showed that Nearly 70% of Massachusetts voters believe the solar power industry is important to the Massachusetts economy, while yet other polls found that overwhelming majorities support full-retail-price solar net metering in Louisiana and Florida.
Need we go on? It’s clear in poll after poll that Americans support solar!
5. Solar can’t be stopped!
Recently, there has been more and more talk of solar becoming mainstream. It may not be there yet, but all signs point to solar getting to mainstream before long.
This won’t happen without a fight. Certain large utilities and their allies have been fighting solar in a big way — at least, unless they can control it. But with groups like TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed) and the Green Tea Coalition on solar’s side — not to mention the aforementioned huge public support — the utilities will have an uphill battle. (Some are even forward-looking enough to embrace solar.) And so far, attempts to undermine net metering have been failing, with an impressive 10-0 score for solar.
With a company like SolarCity signing a new solar customer every three minutes and power plants in the hundreds of megawatts being built, solar has become a force that can’t be stopped. That’s not only good for the solar industry — it’s good for all of us, and good for the Earth.