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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 85 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity installed nationwide, enough to power 16 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 Q2 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 $20,000 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 nearly 3% 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 U.S. solar industry has been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in a tumultuous Q2 2020 in which thousands of solar workers were laid off or furloughed. The impacts have been greatest in the residential and commercial segments which have historically relied on in-person sales strategies. While most companies have successfully pivoted to remote sales techniques, 2020 residential and commercial installation forecasts are still down 11% from pre-pandemic forecasts. 

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. While that pace continued into 2020, economic shutdowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic slowed growth considerably in Q2. Despite this, the market is still on pace to at least match installation totals from last year, as most companies have had better-than-expected results from switching to a wholly online sales model.  

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 23% in 2020 compared with 2019.

Large Utility-Scale Solar Pipeline Outpaces Installs 

After several years of uncertainty due to the imposition of solar module tariffs, declines in the tariff rates combined with growing clean energy goals from states, large companies and utilities have led to increased utility-scale procurement. As of the end of Q2 2020 the contracted pipeline sits at a record 62 GW, with most of those projects slated for completion before 2024, ahead of scheduled step-downs to the Investment Tax Credit. While most utility-scale projects have seen minimal delays due to coronavirus, there are lingering concerns around the ability of early-stage projects to obtain financing in a tighter market, potentially leading to development delays.

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 challenges related to the coronavirus are expected to lead to 11% decline in 2020 from 2019 in distributed markets, most utility-scale work has continued and a record pipeline in that segment will carry the industry to a record year for deployment in 2020. Beyond 2020, all market segments continue to face some uncertainty caused by the pandemic, with growth prospects contingent on continued economic recovery and stability in the financial markets. Impending step downs to the Investment Tax Credit help to pull demand into the 2021 – 2023 time frame, setting the stage for a series of record years.

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.