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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. If you're looking for more data, explore our resources page. In addition, SEIA Members have access to presentation slide decks that contain this data and much more. Not a SEIA Member? Join today!

Massive Growth Since 2000 Sets the Stage for the Solar+ Decade

In the last decade alone, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 49%. Thanks to strong federal policies like the solar Investment Tax Credit, rapidly declining costs, and increasing demand across the private and public sector for clean electricity, there are now more than 81 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity installed nationwide, enough to power 15.7 million homes.

Solar as an Economic Engine

As of Fall 2019, nearly 250,000 Americans work in solar - more than double the number in 2012 - at more than 10,000 companies in every U.S. state. In 2019, the solar industry generated $18.7 billion of 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 2020 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 $16/MWh - $35/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 7 years. In 2019, 40% of all new electric capacity added to the grid came from solar, the largest such share in history. 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 2.5% today.

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 rapidly. In 2019, states outside of California made up their largest share of the market in the last decade, led by rapid growth in Florida and Texas. As the price of solar continues to fall, new state entrants will grab an increasingly larger share of the national market.

COVID-19 Has Had Significant Impacts on Distributed Solar

The solar industry has been severely harmed by the pandemic, resulting in 114,000 fewer solar workers by June 2020, when compared to pre-COVID forecasts. The impact of job losses and work stoppages has been greatest in the distributed generation sector, which includes residential and commercial projects. Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables forecasts that the distributed generation segment will experience a 31% decline in 2020 compared with 2019. While utility-scale solar has not been as heavily impacted, growth projections are now lower than expected and the virus has created significant uncertainty for projects under development.

Prices Decline for Rooftop Solar, but Higher Soft Costs Remain

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. Through the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) program, SEIA and our partners are working to reduce local barriers to going solar.

Storage is Increasingly Paired with All Forms of Solar

Homeowners and businesses are increasingly demanding solar systems that are paired with battery storage. While this pairing is still relatively new, the growth over the next five years is expected to be significant. By 2025, more than 25% of all behind-the-meter solar systems will be paired with storage, compared to under 5% in 2019. The utility-scale market is also recognizing the benefits of pairing solar with storage, with over 8 GW of commissioned projects including storage, representing nearly 1 in 5 contracted projects.

Residential Market Continues to Diversify

The residential solar market experienced a record year in 2019 as costs continued to fall and solar expanded into more state markets. That trend continued into Q1 2020, as the segment record its second-largest quarter and states outside of California combined for their largest share of installations ever. However, coronavirus-related impacts are expected to reduce 2020 deployment by nearly 1,000 MW relative to pre-COVID forecasts, representing a 25% decline from 2019. 

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 rooftop installations by such companies as Walmart, Apple, Target and Amazon. While both sub-segments are expected to drive growth in non-residential going forward, coronavirus impacts on business demand are expected to set the segment back in by 38% in 2020 compared with 2019.

Large Utility-Scale Solar Pipeline Keeps Pace with Installs 

After several years of uncertainty due to the imposition of solar module tariffs, declines in the tariff rates combined with the scheduled step-down of the Investment Tax Credit have led to increased utility-scale procurement. While that pace continued into Q1 2020 with the contracted pipeline growing to a record 51 GW, coronavirus impacts on financial markets have created significant uncertainty for the segment over the next several years.

Solar PV Growth Forecast

After 2% market decline in 2018 due to module tariff impacts on utility-scale project development timelines, growth resumed in 2019 with more than 13 GW installed. While coronavirus is expected to lead to 31% decline in 2020 from 2019 in distributed markets, most utility-scale work has been able to continue and a record pipeline in that segment will carry the industry to a record year for deployment in 2020. Beyond 2020, all market segments face considerable uncertainty caused by the pandemic, resulting in a downward revision of 3.6 GW to the 2020 – 2025 forecasts relative to last quarter. Growth will be contingent on economies reopening, recovery of consumer and businesses demand, financial market stability and a resumption of growth in electricity demand.    

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.

top corporate solar users

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.