Solar power use is increasing to double-digits in homes, businesses, and electrical utilities each year. In 2016, the U.S. reached 25.6 billion watts and gigawatts of electrical capacity generated. For the first time in history, solar power surpassed natural gas for new energy installations. The United States solar market expects to exceed 100 gigawatts/100 billion watts of total power generation by 2021. The EIA has stated the U.S. produces roughly 4 trillion hours of kilowatts of electricity every year.
Renewable Energy at All Time High in the U.S.
“With solar energy being the fastest developing energy source, renewable power generation capacities are expected to increase 2.6% yearly through 2040 worldwide,” according to the Energy Information Administration. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has stated that by 2050 renewable energy will account for 80% of American electricity. Large-scale electricity generation, the highest source among renewable electricity sources, will have seen an increase of 10 gigawatts by 2014 to 27 gigawatts in 2017, showing an average rate of growth of 39% a year.
The United States Department of Energy says “solar power use has tripled in under three years.” Last year in the United States, wind, solar power, and utility added up to over 66% of new capacity installed. Nearly 209,000 workers are employed in the solar industry, more than double than those in the coal industry. The Solar Energy Industry Association says that figure will rise to over 420,000 workers.
It’s Never Been More Affordable to Go Solar
“Annually, four to five million new roofs go up in the United States, with 20 times that number going up worldwide. With rooftop solar paneling costing $15,000 to $18,000 on average and the investment return estimated to be 7.5 years, more people will outright own their systems,” says the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA).
CEO Vikram Aggarwal of EnergySage, an online marketplace that offers interested businesses and homeowners solar installation quotes, says that on average PPAs or solar leases will save consumers about 30% of the per-kilowatt price charged by the system provider. Purchasing systems enables customers to receive 100% of the electricity and tax incentives. If customers borrow money to pay for a system instead of buying it, they will still save 40% to 80% while paying the loan off. GTM Research states that outright ownership of solar systems is expected to reach 46% by 2020.
Power purchase agreements (PPAs), leases and the Investment Tax Credit have allowed businesses and homeowners to install solar paneling systems and put zero money down. The downside is that consumers’ contracts are locked at 20 years. Consumers with power purchase agreements pay on average 30 to 40% less than a utility company payment for electricity from their leased or purchased solar panels.
More & More Cities Committed to Solar
According to the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign, 20 big U.S. cities, San Francisco included, have committed to the use of 100% renewable energy over the next 15-20 years. The cities that have already reached 100% clean energy with renewable sources are: Burlington, Vermont, Aspen, Colorado, Columbia, Maryland and Greensburg, Kansas. More cities will follow.
By 2040, natural gas, coal, and renewable energy sources will each provide shares of 28% and 29% of electricity generation for the world. In 2012, the Energy Information Administration stated that coal accounted for 40% of all power produced. Solar energy is a renewable source that shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.