In April, the United States hit an important milestone in the quest for full renewable energy transition after the one-millionth solar system was installed.
One million solar system might sound like a lot, but they’re barely making a dent in the country’s energy generation mix. Right now, solar energy accounts for 27 gigawatts (GW) of electric generation capacity across all 50 states and one percent of total U.S. power supply.
It’s still fantastic news, though, once you factor in the rate of progress over the last couple of years and the projected growth. It took 40 years to install one million solar capacities, but the next one million will be added in only two years, and by 2020 the country expects to generate three percent of its power supply from solar.
“This is a time to mark when the solar industry started to accelerate at warp speed,” said Dan Whitten, vice president of communications at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
To celebrate the occasion, SEIA has launched an awareness campaign called #millionsolarstrong. You’re all invited to spread the word and join one of the events hosted by SEIA and partners near you.
“We want to open this conversation and let people know that we are now a part of the energy mainstream,” said Whitten. “We’re central to any discussion about America’s energy future.”
“The first 1 million solar installations came from a lot of state markets benefiting from steep cost reductions as well as incentive programs, like renewable portfolio standards and rooftop solar programs,” said Cory Honeyman, associate director of solar for GTM Research. “When we look at what defines the next 1 million installs, it will be a much more geographically diverse landscape and a growing number of states seeing solar come on-line purely based on how cost-competitive it is.”
Here are some more interesting facts about solar:
- This year alone, the U.S. solar market is projected to grow 119 percent. That’s an additional 16 GW of new solar capacity, more than double of the record-breaking 7.3 GW added in 2015.
- Utility installations will make up the bulk of this year’s solar growth, but smaller installations like rooftop solar are also making an important contribution.
- Much of this growth is owed to favorable policies like the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which is still available for the next five years. Doubled with technological advancements and economies of scale which have increased solar efficiency and dropped prices, the solar boom is imminent.
- The average cost of solar panels fell 75 percent between 2009–2014 alone, and solar photovoltaic (PV) modules will drop another 25 percent by 2018.
- Solar jobs are growing 20 percent annually, and 209,000 Americans are now employed in the solar industry nationwide. In 2015 alone, 35,000 were added.
Update: headline corrected from “one-millionth solar panel” to “[…] solar system”. There are far more than a million solar panels in the United States.