Money & Business

Sunny Side Up: Solar Industry Seeing Record Returns

By / Sep 14, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

According to the latest report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, the industry is currently producing a record 20 gigawatts of energy. That’s a lot of watts.

At the rate the solar energy industry is going, it could power numerous time machines at once.

Between March and June, the solar industry saw an additional 1,393 megawatts of solar capacity installed in the U.S., bumping the solar market’s total capacity above 20 gigawatts—enough to power 16.5 of the iconic Deloreans from Back to the Future, which each require 1.21 gigawatts of energy to get going.

That interesting factoid comes from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, which also reported in the latest edition of their quarterly fact sheet that the solar industry represents 32 percent of all new electricity generation in the country—enough to power 4.6 million homes.

Rhone Resch, the association’s president and CEO, cited the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) as a driving factor for solar energy’s consistent growth, which has helped to decrease the cost of installing solar panels by 73 percent. He also praised legislators for continuing to pass the tax credit.

“The demand for solar energy is now higher than ever and this report spells out how crucial it is for America to maintain smart, effective, forward-looking public policies, like the ITC, beyond 2016,” Resch said in a news release.

Much of this growth is being pushed along by residential users of solar panels, particularly those set up by utilities. GTM Research’s senior vice president, Shayle Kann, noted utility solar “continues to be the bedrock driver of new installation growth,” due in part to the cost-competitiveness of such energy.

While the industry’s growth is significant, there’s plenty of room for more growth, as just five states (California, Arizona, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Nevada) represent three-quarters of the cumulative solar-energy production. The situation is improving, however, as 21 states report having more than 100 megawatts of capacity each.

To help ensure the expansion of solar energy, SEIA last week announced that it was launching a new finance initiative designed to encourage wide-scale investment in solar technology by making capital available for new projects.

“We believe this effort will culminate in greater manufacturing and deployment opportunities for solar technologies, and will be a boon for solar customers,” the association’s Resch added.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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