State of the Union: Obama shines modest light on US solar expansion


"Every three weeks, we bring on line as much solar power as we did in all of 2008," said Obama.

The president, it appears, was being modest.

In 2008, the U.S. added approximately 338 MW of solar power capacity, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. However, only 293 MW actually went on line, since NREL estimated that 45 MW were off-grid systems.

In 2014, the U.S. brought on line approximately 7.2 GW of solar, mostly PV, estimated the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research in a recent report. That means, on average, about 415 MW of new solar power capacity was added every three weeks in 2014, or about 273 MW every other week.

Roughly three quarters of America’s installed solar power capacity – estimated at approximately 20 GW including both PV and CSP – has come on line since Obama took office in 2009. Most of these projects have relied on federal tax credits, or Recovery Act grants or loan guarantees.

Calling climate change the greatest threat to future generations, Obama said, "That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it." The president vowed to "not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts."

The 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) for commercial, industrial and utility-scale solar systems is scheduled to fall to 10% at the end of 2016, after Obama leaves office, while the residential tax credit is slated to expire.

The 30% ITC was created during the Bush administration.