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article imageU.S. Solar power industry growth in 2016 set new records

By Karen Graham     Mar 9, 2017 in Business
The U.S. solar industry is in the midst of some boom-times, showing its biggest growth ever in 2016, with solar capacity expected to nearly triple over the next five years.
GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said in their annual analysis of the US solar sector that in 2016, installed solar power nearly doubled, compared to 2015.
Actually, the SEIS Report shows more solar power was added to the nation's electrical grid than any other source of energy, a milestone for the growing industry that makes it an integral part of America's energy portfolio. This new data also shows that the country added 14.8 GW of installed capacity in 2016, up from the previous tally of about 14.6 GW.
Photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of a house near Boston Massachusetts.
Photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of a house near Boston Massachusetts.
Gray Watson (CC BY-SA 3.0)
But here's the most stunning statistic to come out of the report, writes Solar Industry Magazine - One new megawatt of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity went online every 36 minutes last year.
The report adds that 22 states each installed more than 100 MW in 2016, two more than in 2010, plus, four states not known for their solar industry saw a high growth of solar. Those states include Georgia, Minnesota, South Carolina, and Utah.
Another great statistic is the drop of 20 percent seen in the pricing of solar PV systems in 2016. “It would be hard to overstate how impressive 2016 was for the solar industry,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president, and CEO.
“Prices dropped to all-time lows, installations expanded in states across the country and job numbers soared.” He added that the "solar market over the next five years is going in one direction — and that's up."
The outlook for the future of solar power
The outlook for 2017 shows that 13.2 GW of solar PV will be installed in the U.S., a 10 percent drop over 2016 figures. However, it still represents 75 percent more than what was installed in 2015. The dip will only occur in the solar utility market, following the unprecedented number of utility-scale projects that came online in the latter half of 2016 before the federal tax credit ran out. But Congress has extended the credit until 2019, so the utility-scale market is expected to rebound.
Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) has announced a new “30-by-30” plan to install more than 30 mill...
Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) has announced a new “30-by-30” plan to install more than 30 million solar panels by 2030.
Duke Energy via Twitter
“Though utility PV will reset from an origination perspective starting in 2017-2018, distributed solar is largely expected to continue to grow over the next few years due to rapid system cost declines and a growing number of states reaching grid parity,” says Corey Honeyman, associate director of GTM Research.
“That said, ongoing NEM and rate design battles – in conjunction with a declining incentive environment for non-residential PV – will continue to present risks to distributed solar growth.”
Solar and wind industries creating jobs for Americans
According to a report published by the Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) Climate Corps program in January 2017, the solar and wind industries are creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the American economy.
EDF Report
While touted by President Trump as a "bad investment," solar and wind industry jobs have grown at a rate of 20 percent annually in the past few years, driven mainly by a reduction in manufacturing and installation costs, reports Fortune.
"Trump's current approach is basically ignoring an entire industry that has grown up over the last 10 years or so and is quite robust," Liz Delaney, program director at EDF Climate Corps, told Business Insider.
More about solar industry, Fossil fuels, Record year, PV system pricing, Tax credits
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