2017 Renewable Energy Handbook Solar


Solar Is Here and It’s THRIVING!

WE MAY PERSONIFY a broken record when we say, “Now is a great time to get involved with solar.” But the statement holds true every year. Even as we were hesitant to make that pitch last year—with the uncertainty surrounding the investment tax credit (ITC) renewal and the expected 8-GW drop in projects if tax credits were reduced—solar pulled through. Just before the 2015 holiday season, the U.S. Congress agreed on a bill that extends the ITC by five additional years. The industry was immediately forecasted to grow 116% in 2016 because of the extension. It remains a great time to be involved in solar.

The ITC extension “breathes new life into the U.S. solar industry,” said analysts at IHS Markit. Manufacturers, developers and even those wary about getting involved with the U.S. market have pushed forward. Installation growth is off the charts.

It took us 40 years to hit 1 million U.S. solar installations (which was celebrated in May this year). But the exploding growth of solar is evident in forecasts that expect us to reach another million installations just within the next two years. As SEIA interim president Tom Kimbis said, “The solar industry is growing at warp speed, driven by the fact that solar is one of the lowest cost options for electricity, and it’s being embraced by people who both care about the environment and want access to affordable and reliable electricity.”

Solar accounted for 26% of all new electric generating capacity brought online in the United States in the first half of 2016. This summer was the first for California to use more electricity from renewables than from natural gas. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects 2016 to be the first year in which utility-scale solar additions to the power grid exceed additions from any other single energy source.

Need more proof the U.S. solar industry is ripe for additional activity? Costs keep dropping and technology advancements make solar more attractive to the masses. Solar prices are 18% lower than they were a year ago and 63% lower than five years ago. NREL found that overall installation costs have fallen by 6% (residential), 4% (commercial) and 20% (utility) since 2015. A residential system costs, on average, $2.93/watt to install today. Back in the late ’70s when President Jimmy Carter was installing solar on the White House roof, the solar panel alone cost $76/watt. These crazy cost savings made solar a more attractive option when President Barack Obama re-installed a 6.3-kW system on the White House in 2014.

The growth we see now is expected to continue, most definitely through the next five years. GTM Research notes that by 2021, more than 30 states will add more than 100 MW of annual capacity, with 20 of those states becoming home to more than 1 GW of total operating solar PV. When we hit that next ITC step down, the U.S. solar industry will be better prepared for what’s to come, and solar will continue its dominance.

This is the proof that upholds our annual solar-friendly sentiments; it’s a great time to get involved in the market, whether through manufacturing, installing or choosing to put solar on your own roof. Join us in this booming industry!