SOLAR INDUSTRY DATA

SOLAR INDUSTRY GROWING AT A RECORD PACE

Solar energy in the United States is booming. Along with our partners at GTM Research and The Solar Foundation, SEIA tracks trends and trajectories in the solar industry that demonstrate the diverse and sustained growth across the country.

Below you will find charts and factoids that summarize the state of solar in the U.S.

Solar Growth and the ITC

The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has provided industry stability and growth since its initial passage in 2006. In the last decade, solar has experienced a compound annual growth rate of more than 60%. To learn more about the ITC and its impact on the solar industry, visit our ITC Policy Page.

Solar as an Economic Engine

Nearly 209,000 Americans work in solar – more than double the number in 2010 – at more than 9,000 companies in every U.S. state. By 2021, that number is expected to increase to more than 360,000 workers.

Growth in Solar is led by Falling Prices

The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 60% over the last 10 years, leading the industry to expand into new markets and deploy thousands of systems nationwide.

Q2 2016 Solar Market Update: Key Takeaways

  • Over 4 GW installed in Q3 2016
    • Largest quarter ever – by almost 1 GW
    • Through Q3, 2016 has already become the largest year ever
  • Nearly 36 GW of total solar capacity now installed
    • CAGR of 58% since 2010
    • Generates enough electricity to power 6.5 million homes
  • Solar prices dropped 19% from Q3 2015 to Q3 2016
    • Price drop is seen across all market segments – 5-7% in last quarter alone
    • Prices have dropped 62% over the last five years
    • Utility-Scale PPAs now signed for $0.03 – $0.05/kWh
  • Through Q3 2016, solar represents 39% of all newly installed electric capacity
    • With big Q4 2016 expected, could end year ahead of Wind, NG
  • In Q3 2016, a new MW of solar was added every 32 minutes
    • A new installation was added every 84 seconds

Solar PV Price Breakdown

The biggest cost-decline opportunity in the solar industry exists in soft costs, including labor, supply chain and overhead considerations. The U.S. Department of Energy is leading the charge on reducing soft costs, and SEIA and The Solar Foundation are working with cities and counties to streamline permitting processes and reduce local barriers to going solar.

The U.S Solar Industry is a 50 State Market

While California has traditionally dominated the U.S. solar market – with 34% market share in 2016 – other markets are continuing to expand, including Massachusetts, Utah, New York and Texas, where much of the future growth will take place.

Continued Growth Across All Market Segments

While residential solar has been the fastest growing segment in recent years, growth has slowed in 2016 as installers in mature markets continue to refine sales techniques. The commercial market has has success with large players like Walmart, Apple and Target, but community solar and off-site procurement will drive growth in the near term.  The utility-scale segment continues to be the backbone of the U.S. solar industry, with nearly 10 GW of installations expected in 2016.

Utility-Scale Solar Pipeline

Utility-scale solar has represented nearly two thirds of the market over the past few years, and this trend will likely continue through 2017 with a contracted pipeline of projects totaling almost 20 gigawatts.

U.S. Solar PV Growth Forecast

We expect the U.S. solar industry to install more than 14 GW of capacity by the end of 2016, which is nearly double the amount installed in a record-breaking 2015. Through the end of this decade, there will be robust growth across all three market segments, eventually reaching a 20 GW annual solar market and 100 GW in cumulative installed capacity.

SOLAR HELPS FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES SAVE MONEY

Data from SEIA’s annual Solar Means Business report show that major U.S. corporations, including Target, Walmart and Apple are going solar at an incredible rate. The top 25 corporate solar users in America have installed nearly 1,100 MW of capacity at 2,000 different facilities across the country as of October 2016.

Other key takeaways:

  • The amount of solar installed at U.S. corporations and businesses is enough to offset 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year
  • Commercial prices have fallen by 58% since 2012 and by 16% in the last year


Click on the image above to view the map full screen. Zoom in to view the projects via satellite imagery.

Solar News

U.S. Solar Market Insight

Solar Adds 14.8 Gigawatts of Capacity in Record 2016, On Track to Triple in Size by 2022

Updated March 9, 2017

executive summary

The U.S. installed 14,800 megawatts (MW) of solar PV in 2016 to reach 42.4 gigawatts (GW) of total installed capacity, enough to power 8.3 million American homes. With more than 1 million residential solar installations nationwide and record-breaking growth in the utility-scale sector, the industry is poised to nearly triple over the next five years, surpassing 100 GW nationwide.

Read the Executive Summary

The full report includes all the data and analysis from our Executive Summary plus incisive, state-level breakdowns of installations, costs, manufacturing and demand projections.

Purchase the full report

Press Release

executive summary

BOSTON, Mass. and WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. solar market had its biggest year ever in 2016, nearly doubling its previous record and adding more electric generating capacity than any other source of energy for the first time ever. Over the next five years, the cumulative U.S. solar market is expected to nearly triple in size, even as a slight dip is expected in 2017. GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) announced these historic figures today in the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2016 Year-in-Review report.

More Industry Data

For more facts and figures about the U.S. solar industry, including historical data and future projections, click here.

Members-only Resource

Have all of our most recent data at your fingertips. Designed for industry experts and communications practicioners, the Solar Data Cheat Sheet is meant for you to have at your desk. It compiles top-line data from our major reports. Get it now.

Sample Tweets

  • Click to Tweet: SEIA/GTM Research release the U.S. #SMI 2016 Year-in-Review, showing record breaking growth! More: seia.org/smi #SolarIsNow
  • Click to Tweet: The U.S. #solar market grew by 97% in 2016, adding nearly 15 GW of new capacity! #SolarIsNow seia.org/smi
  • Click to tweet: #Solar accounted for 39% of new electric capacity installed in 2016, more than any other energy source! #SolarIsNow seia.org/smi
  • Click to Tweet<: Today, more than 1.3 million American homes have installed a #solar PV system! More #SMI data at >seia.org/smi
  • Click to Tweet: In 2012, only California had installed more than 1 GW of #solar. Now 9 states have eclipsed the 1 GW threshold! seia.org/smi

Shareable Graphics

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Solar 101 “Video”

Renewable Energy

Renewables and Carbon Dioxide Emissions

  • Wind energy capacity at the end of 2016 was 81 gigawatts (GW). EIA expects capacity additions in the forecast will bring total wind capacity to 95 GW by the end of 2018.
  • On a percentage basis, solar power is expected to be the fastest growing renewable energy source in the forecast period, with total utility-scale capacity increasing by 44% from the end of 2016 to 31 GW at the end of 2018. With that level of growth, solar is expected to account for 1.4% of total utility-scale electricity generation in 2018.
  • After declining by 1.9% in 2016, energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to decrease by 0.2% in 2017 and then increase by 1.6% in 2018. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, and energy prices.

DOWNLOADquadrillion BtuprojectionsU.S. renewable energy supplySolarGeothermalOther biomassWind powerLiquid biofuelsWood biomassHydropower20062007200820092010201120122013201420152016201720180123456789101112Source: Short-Term Energy Outlook, March 2017

Note: Hydropower excludes pumped storage generation. Liquid biofuels include ethanol and biodiesel. Other biomass includes municipal waste from biogenic sources, landfill gas, and other non-wood waste.DOWNLOADpercentprojectionsU.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissionsgrowthAll fossil fuelsCoalPetroleumNatural gas2015201620172018-15%-12%-9%-6%-3%0%3%6%Source: Short-Term Energy Outlook, March 2017

Go Solar CT!

Homes with solar panels do not require on-site storage to reap the biggest economic and environmental benefits of solar energy, according to research from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. In fact, storing solar energy for nighttime use actually increases both energy consumption and emissions compared with sending excess solar energy directly to the utility grid.

In a paper published in Nature Energy on Jan. 30, researchers assessed the trade-offs of adding home energy storage to households with existing solar panels, shedding light on the benefits and drawbacks of adding storage considering today’s full energy grid mix.

According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, the number of rooftop solar installations grew to more than 1 million U.S. households in 2016. There is a growing interest in using energy storage to capture solar energy to reduce reliance on traditional utilities. But for now, few homes have on-site storage to hold their solar energy for later use in the home.

“The good news is that storage isn’t required to make solar panels useful or cost-effective,” said co-author Michael Webber, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and deputy director of UT Austin’s Energy Institute. “This also counters the prevailing myth that storage is needed to integrate distributed solar power just because it doesn’t produce energy at night.”

Webber and co-author Robert Fares, a Cockrell School alumnus who is now an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy, analyzed the impact of home energy storage using electricity data from almost 100 Texas households that are part of a smart grid test bed managed by Pecan Street Inc., a renewable energy and smart technology company housed at UT Austin.

They found that storing solar energy for nighttime use increases a household’s annual energy consumption—in comparison with using solar panels without storage—because storage consumes some energy every time it charges and discharges. The researchers estimated that adding energy storage to a household with solar panels increases its annual energy consumption by about 324 to 591 kilowatt-hours.

“I expected that storage would lead to an increase in energy consumption,” Fares said. “But I was surprised that the increase could be so significant—about an 8 to 14 percent increase on average over the year.”

The researchers also found that adding storage indirectly increases overall emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide based on today’s Texas grid mix, which is primarily made up of fossil fuels. The increase in emissions is primarily due to the increase in energy consumption required to account for storage inefficiencies. Because storage affects what time of day a household draws electricity from the grid, it also influences emissions in that way.

If a homeowner is seeking to reduce his or her environmental footprint, adding storage would not make the household more green, but it shouldn’t be dismissed either, the researchers said.

“Solar combined with storage is still a lot cleaner than having no solar at all,” Fares said.

For utility companies, the benefits are more clear cut. Solar energy storage reduces peak grid demand by 8 to 32 percent and the magnitude of solar power injections to the grid by 5 to 42 percent. This is good for the utility because it can reduce the amount of electricity generation and delivery capacity required.

“However, if the utility is interested in reducing emissions, incentivizing home storage is probably not a good idea,” Fares said.

In short, the analysis showed that storing solar energy today offers fewer environmental benefits than just sending it straight to the grid, because the energy lost to storage inefficiencies is ultimately made up with fossil-fuel electricity from the grid. “These findings challenge the myth that storage is inherently clean, but that, in turn, offers useful insights for utility companies,” Webber said.

“If we use the storage as the means to foster the adoption of significantly more renewables that offset the dirtiest sources, then storage—done the right way and installed at large-scale—can have beneficial impacts on the grid’s emissions overall,” Webber said.

 Explore further: Energy storage project to help homes be less reliant on grid

More information: The impacts of storing solar energy in the home to reduce reliance on the utility, Nature Energy , nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nenergy.2017.1