BLOG: Two Million and Counting
By Richard Payne, Managing Director, ReNew Petra
As of mid-2019, two million solar installations have been built across the United States. With the solar industry rapidly climbing to new heights, this momentous feat is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Today, the two million residential, commercial and utility-scale solar installations produce enough electricity each year to power more than 12 million American homes,” according to SEIA. While it took more than 40 years to accomplish the industry’s journey to two million, experts say the next million solar installations will only take a couple of years.
How We Got Here
In recent decades, federal and state agencies have offered companies and consumers incentives and deductions towards solar installations to encourage investment in renewable energy. In 2005, the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) sparked a 59 percent annual growth, enabling new domestic job opportunities for thousands of Americans and a boost to the U.S. economy. Today, the solar energy industry is worth $17 billion dollars.
Over the past year, the solar industry employed more than 240,000 Americans in jobs such as solar PV engineers, electrical design engineers, and solar plus storage engineers. While solar employment has declined approximately three percent since 2017, the solar workforce has grown 159 percent since 2010.
At the state level, California represents 51 percent of the first million solar installations, making it a hub for solar. North Carolina has the second-most solar capacity of any state, trailing only behind California. Other states like Texas, Minnesota, Florida, and South Carolina also have an immense opportunity to increase solar production.
The Future Of Solar
Analysts from Wood Mackenzie estimate that the U.S. will reach three million solar installations by 2021 and double over the next five years. Wood Mackenzie also forecasts that by 2024 there will be one solar installation per minute, up from one installation every 10 minutes in 2010. Currently, the U.S. is the third-largest solar market in the world and is on track to become second.
The fact that solar is growing is even more apparent through initiatives like SEIA’s “The Solar Decade,” which is dedicated to growing solar to 30 percent of all energy generation by 2030. This is an ambitious goal given current generation is closer to 6 percent. To continue this positive trajectory, solar depends on policymakers, innovators, corporations, consumers, and employees working together for a sustainable future.