Solar Energy USA

Solar Facts

Growing At An Exponential Rate

  • While the United States pioneered clean energy technologies like solar power, Germany and China now lead in solar panel manufacturing. Further, China attracted $54.4 billion in private finance in 2010 while Germany attracted $41.2 billion and the United States was third with $34 billion.
  • A sunny location (like Los Angeles, California, US) receives an average of 5.5 hours of sunlight per day each year.
  • A cloudy location (like Hamburg, Germany) receives 2.5 hours per day of sunlight each year.
  • Solar modules produce electricity even on cloudy days, usually around 10-20% of the amount produced on sunny days.
  • Monthly average residential consumption of electricity in the US in 2008 was 920 kilowatt hours. Monthly average residential electricity bill in the US in 2008 was $103.67 (Source: US DOE).
  • Over the last 20 years the cost of solar energy systems has come down seven fold. As the demand for systems rises and manufacturing volume increases, costs will decrease and the economic payback time will also decrease.
  • In 2009, the United States was the third largest solar photovoltaic market in the world, after Germany and Italy.  Despite a challenging domestic economic environment, the US market still delivered a growth rate of 36%, strong but not nearly as strong as the 62% growth in 2008.
  • The US market is forecasted to grow to between 4.5-5.5 GW over the next five years, around ten times the size of the 2009 market and an average annual growth rate of 30% per annum.
  • The solar industry employs more than 120,000 Americans, more than twice as many as in 2009. They work at more than 5,600 companies, the vast majority being small businesses, in all 50 states.
  • The U.S. solar industry grew by 125% from Q2 2011 to Q2 2012, making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy. The industry installed 772 MW of solar electric (PV and CPV) capacity in Q2 2012. SEIA forecasts the solar industry will maintain its rapid growth with 2,100 MW of solar electric (PV, CPV and CSP) capacity projected to be installed during the second half of 2012.
  • Residential solar installations are increasing too – there was 98 MW of residential installations in the second quarter of 2012, up 42% over Q2 2011.
  • Solar is achieving record cost reductions. Surging demand has dropped solar module prices approximately 75% in just the past three years, with another 50% expected over the next three, (Source: Navigant Consulting and other market data). This mirrors the experience with cell phones, digital cameras and flat-screen—and follows the rule of thumb in electronics manufacturing that costs decrease 20% each time production volume doubles. Those favorable technology prices combined with business efficiencies have delivered increasing value to consumers.
  • The average pre-incentive cost of going solar decreased 17% in 2010 alone, the most significant annual reductions since the data has been tracked. Costs declined another 11% in the first half of 2011, (Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Tracking the Sun IV).
  • Since the beginning of 2010, the price of solar panels has dropped by 46%, and costs continue to fall making solar an even more viable choice for residential and business customers.
  • The average cost of a total PV system dropped by 33% in the second quarter of 2012 compared to the second quarter of 2011.
  • The U.S. was a net exporter of solar products in 2010 by $2 billion. We were even a net exporter to China.
  • Solar power in the U.S. now exceeds 8,500 megawatts (MW), enough to power more than 1.3 million homes.
  • Continued industry growth enhances our energy security and diversifies our domestic energy portfolio.
  • An investment in solar is an investment in jobs. Solar investments create more jobs per megawatt than any other energy resource,  (Source: UC Berkeley Energy Resources Group). 120,000 Americans are currently working in the U.S. solar industry (more than coal mining or steel & iron manufacturing). Solar businesses added 6,735 new workers in all 50 states since August 2010, which represents a 6.8 percent growth rate. During the same 12-month period, jobs in the overall economy grew by a mere 0.7 percent, while fossil fuel electric generation lost 2 percent of its workforce, (Source: Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census – 2011).
  • Over the next year a majority of solar energy companies plan to add employees. According to the National Solar Jobs Consensus 2011 issued by The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit focused on education, research, and market transformation of the solar industry. Solar industry employers expect to increase their workforce by 24% in the next year, creating 24,000 new jobs.