Solar Industry Research Data
Solar Industry Growing at a Record Pace
Solar energy in the United States is booming. Along with our partners at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and The Solar Foundation, SEIA tracks trends and trajectories in the solar industry that demonstrate the diverse and sustained growth of solar across the country.
Below you will find charts and information summarizing the state of solar in the U.S. You can click on each chart or map to view a fullscreen version, and links are provided to additional data or resources.
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 50%. Installations surged in 2016 ahead of potential expiration of the ITC, but an extension in late 2015 has created 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 2018, 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% over the last decade, leading the industry to expand into new markets and deploy thousands of systems nationwide. Prices as of Q1 2019 are at their lowest levels in history across all market segments. An average-sized residential system has dropped from a pre-incentive price of $40,000 in 2010 to roughly $18,000 today, 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 6 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 more than 2% today.
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 on two programs to reduce local barriers to going solar: The SolSmart program and Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP).
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, where modules constitute 40 – 50% of total system costs. Despite imposition of the 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 2018, installations in states outside the top 10 constituted over a quarter 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, the residential market slowed in 2017 in several leading states as large installers re-oriented their sales and business strategies. The market rebounded in 2018 with 7% growth, as the share of sales in states outside the top 10 hit an all time high of 25%. Meanwhile, California continued to lead the way with nearly 1 GW of installations. Future growth is expected across the country as prices continue to fall and combined solar + storage systems become increasingly viable.
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 saw a market reset as some state markets transition to new rate structures and distributed generation programs.
Utility-Scale Project Pipeline
After declines in utility-scale project procurement over the second half of 2017 due to uncertainty surrounding Section 201 module tariffs, the lower-than-expected final tariff announcement in January 2018 allowed developers to make major progress over the year. More than 13 GW of new utility-scale power purchase agreements (PPA) were signed in 2018, bringing the total contracted pipeline to a record 25 GW. The utility-scale market should continue to account for nearly two-thirds of the total solar market in each of the next few years, led by corporate procurement, increasing renewable portfolio standard commitments and pure price competitiveness.
Solar PV Growth Forecast
After 2% market decline in 2018 due to module tariff impacts on utility-scale project development timelines, growth will resume in 2019 with more than 12 GW expected. Installations will continue to grow across all market segments in 2020 and 2021 as prices drop and developers accelerate build-out ahead of Investment Tax Credit declines. Over the next 5 years, total installed solar capacity will more than double, with cumulative deployment topping 100 GW by 2021.
Solar Helps Fortune 500 Companies Save Money
Data from SEIA's annual Solar Means Business report show that major U.S. corporations, including Apple, Amazon, Target, and Walmart are investing in solar and renewable energy at an incredible rate. Through 2018, the top corporate solar users in America have installed more than 7,000 MW of capacity across more than 35,000 different facilities across the country.
Other key takeaways:
- 2018 was the second-largest year for commercial solar installations, with 1,144 MW installed.
- More than half of the 7 GW of corporate solar capacity has been installed in the last three years.
You can explore SEIA's Solar Means Business report, including interactive maps and data tools on the top corporate solar users in the U.S.