In a new video report, the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) tracks solars "huge" growth rate in the U.S. over the past decade. From just 500 MW of installed capacity in 2004, the country has worked hard, often against the odds, to pave a secure path for solar deployment. The results saw cumulative capacity top 20 GW in 2014, while investment rose from US$2.6 billion to $71.1 billion in the same period. By the end of 2016, installed capacity is expected to reach 40 GW.
Having been identified as one of the U.S.s fastest growing industries, one of solars biggest successes has been in the employment sector. Adding 31,000 new jobs in 2014 alone, the number of people employed in solar in the U.S. has increased from 20,000 in 2004, to 174,000 last year. Over four years, the job sector has seen 86% growth, says SEIA, with solar "adding workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy."
Installed capacity, as aforementioned, has also grown exponentially. In 2004, just 15,500 homes had installed PV systems. By 2014, this figure had increased to 600,000. And just two states had an installed solar capacity over 10 MW in 2004. This figure has grown to 35 in 2014, with 20 boasting an installed capacity of over 100 MW.
According to the U.S. Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), California is by far the most solar active state with 8.65 GW of installed power, followed by Arizona with 1.22 GW and New Jersey, also with 1.22 GW. In its latest Utility Solar Market Snapshot, it states that Solar energy is fast becoming a ‘least-cost’ option for U.S. utilities.
Like SEPA, SEIA contributes the solar uptake to "smart policies", including the solar investment tax credit, net metering and Renewable Portfolio Standards laws. On the back of these, the solar industry is said to contribute $18 billion a year to the overall U.S. economy.
By the end of 2016, SEIA estimates that 40 GW of solar will be installed across the states, with 16 installing more than 100 MW. Meanwhile, it forecasts all solar sectors will experience market growth between 25 and 50%. This will help to offset up to 40 million metric tonnes of carbon, also in 2016, it says.
Watch SEIAs full video report, Solar Energy in the United States: A Decade of Record Growth.