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 Q4 2018 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.
U.S. Solar Market Through 2018: Key Takeaways
10.6 GW installed in 2018
- Down 2% from 2017 largely due to project development delays due to module tariffs
- 4.2 GW installed in Q4 2018, ranking as the second largest quarter ever
Over 64 GW of total solar capacity now installed
- Average annual growth rate of 50% over the last 10 years
- Generates enough electricity to power more than 12.3 million homes
Solar generation offsets more than 73 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year, equivalent to:
- Taking 15.6 million vehicles off the road
- Planting nearly 1.2 billion trees
In 2018, a new solar project was 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 was more than double the size — with over 10,000 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 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 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 more than 2,500 MW of capacity at nearly 7,500 different facilities across the country as of 2017.
Other key takeaways:
- The amount of solar installed at U.S. corporations and businesses is enough to offset 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year
- Corporate solar installations are spread across 40 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico
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.