Solar Industry Research Data
Solar Industry Growing at a Record Pace
Solar energy in the United States is booming. Along with our partners at GTM Research and The Solar Foundation, SEIA tracks trends and trajectories in the solar industry that demonstrate the diverse and sustained growth across the country.
Below you will find charts and factoids that summarize the state of solar in the U.S. SEIA Members have access to presentation slide decks that contain this data and much more. Not a SEIA Member? Join today!
Solar Growth and the ITC
The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has provided industry stability and growth since its initial passage in 2006. In the last decade, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 59%. Installations surged in 2016 ahead of potential drop down of the ITC, but an extension in late 2015 has crated federal policy stability through 2021. To learn more about the ITC and its impact on the solar industry, click here.
Solar as an Economic Engine
Over 242,000 Americans work in solar - more than double the number in 2012 - at more than 10,000 companies in every U.S. state. In 2017, the solar industry generated a $17 billion investment in the American economy.
Growth in Solar is led by Falling Prices
The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70% since 2010, leading the industry to expand into new markets and deploy thousands of systems nationwide. Prices as of Q3 2018 are at or near their lowest historical level across all market segments. An average-sized residential system has dropped from more than $40,000 in 2010 to nearly $17,000 today, before incentives, while recent utility-scale prices range from $28/MWh - $45/MWh, competitive with all other forms of generation.
Solar's Share of New Capacity has Grown Rapidly
Solar has ranked first or second in new electric capacity additions in each of the last 5 years. Solar’s increasing competitiveness against other technologies has allowed it to quickly increase its share of total U.S. electrical generation- from just 0.1% in 2010 to over 2% today.
U.S. Solar Market Through Q3 2018: Key Takeaways
1.75 GW installed in Q3 2018
- Down 15% from Q3 2017 and down 20% from Q2 2018
- Quarter down largely due to delays in project development due to module tariffs
Nearly 60 GW of total solar capacity now installed
- Average annual growth rate of 59% over the last 10 years
- Generates enough electricity to power more than 11.3 million homes
Solar generation offsets more than 76 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year, equivalent to:
- Taking 16.2 million vehicles off the road
- Planting nearly 2 billion trees
In 2018, a new solar project has been installed in the U.S. every 100 seconds
- Just five years ago, the solar industry installed less than 5,000 MW of capacity annually. In 2018, the U.S. solar market will be double the size — with over 11,000 MW installed
There are now more than 1.9 million solar installations in the U.S.
- After reaching 1 million in 2016, 2 million should be hit in early 2019 and 4 million by 2023
Soft Costs - A Major Opportunity for Residential Price Decline
The biggest cost-decline opportunity in residential and small commercial solar exists in soft costs, which includes labor, permitting/inspection/interconnection, supply chain, customer acquisition and other overhead costs. As hardware costs have fallen, soft costs have increased as a share of total system costs primarily due to increased customer acquisition costs and inconsistent building code and permitting practices across jurisdictions. The U.S. Department of Energy is leading the charge on reducing soft costs, and SEIA and The Solar Foundation are working with cities and counties to streamline permitting processes and reduce local barriers to going solar.
Utility Pricing Impacted by Module Import Tariffs
Module prices fell steadily until 2017 when the Section 201 Solar Tariff case was announced. The uncertainty surrounding the decision caused module prices to rise in late 2017, with the largest impact on utility-scale systems, for which modules constitute 40 – 50% of total system costs. Despite imposition of 30% tariff in February 2018, module prices have begun falling again due to renewed market certainty in the wake of the lower-than-expected tariff announcement and global module oversupply caused by steep reductions in Chinese demand.
The U.S Solar Industry is a 50 State Market
While California has traditionally dominated the U.S. solar market, other markets are continuing to expand, including Minnesota, South Carolina, Florida and Texas. In 2017, installations in states outside the top 10 constituted a record 28% of the total market. As the price of solar continues to fall, new state entrants will grab an increasingly larger share of the national market.
Residential Market Continues to Diversify
After years of 50%+ annual growth, residential market growth slowed in 2017 in several leading states as installers re-orient their sales and business strategies. At the same time, over half the states saw growth in residential solar in 2017, as share of installations among states outside the top 10 hit 18%- an all-time high. 2018 has seen continued growth in new state markets, while California’s residential market has grown in each of the last 4 quarters.
Community Solar, Corporate Procurement Boost Non-Residential Solar Market
The rapid rise of community solar has boosted the non-residential segment in recent years, coupled with increasing numbers of both off-site and rooftop corporate procurement by such companies as Walmart, Apple, Target and Amazon. Both sub-segments are expected to drive growth in non-residential going forward, though 2018 is likely to see a market reset as a couple key state markets transition to new rate structures and distributed generation programs.
Utility-Scale Project Pipeline
In 2017, 59% of all solar capacity installed was utility-scale, and this segment should account for close to two-thirds of all solar capacity again through 2021. Procurement for new utility-scale projects slowed over the second half of 2017 due to uncertainty surrounding the Section 201 trade case, but the contracted pipeline has increased at a record pace in 2018 as developers look to build out projects ahead of Investment Tax Credit declines and at lower module tariff levels.
Solar PV Growth Forecast
Installation growth is expected to be modest in 2018 as the industry adjusts to new tariffs on imported solar panels. Incremental growth is expected to return in 2019 and pick up through 2021 as prices drop and developers accelerate build-out ahead of Investment Tax Credit declines. By 2021 there will be over 100 GW of solar installed in the U.S., with annual totals exceeding 14 GW.
Solar Helps K-12 Schools and Fortune 500 Companies Save Money
Data from SEIA's annual Solar Means Business report show that major U.S. corporations, including Target, Walmart and Apple are going solar at an incredible rate. The top 25 corporate solar users in America have installed nearly 1,100 MW of capacity at 2,000 different facilities across the country as of October 2016.
Other key takeaways:
- The amount of solar installed at U.S. corporations and businesses is enough to offset 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year
- Commercial prices have fallen by 58% since 2012 and by 16% in the last year
Explore the map below to see where the top 25 corporate solar users in the U.S. have installed solar energy systems. Click here to view the full Solar Means Business Report.
SEIA, The Solar Foundation and Generation 180 produced Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools, which shows that more than 5,500 K-12 schools nationwide have installed solar energy systems. Check out the map below, and click here to access more materials from the report.
Each pin on the map below represents a K-12 school or school district with a solar energy system. For a fullscreen version, click here.