The Solar Energy in The United States

In 2013, the industry installed 4751 megawatts (MW) of new photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the United States.

That is a 41% increase over 2012, and the best year on record. Of all the new electricity generation capacity added in 2013, solar accounted for 29% of the pie (behind only natural gas).

At the end of 2013 there were 13k MW of energy producing capacity within the US, enough to power 2.2m average American homes. The forecast at the end of 2013 for installations in 2014 was 6k MW (a ~46% increase).

That number has since been revised upward to 6.6k MW. This kind of explosive growth for a geographical segment as large as the United States is very impressive. As the graph below indicates, utility scale projects make up the majority of the installations, while residential and commercial projects take smaller pieces of the market.

To the general public solar energy has long been, and mostly still is, an abstract futuristic technology that has little relevance in their everyday lives. They may have seen increasingly impressive looking solar plants in movies, but have no conception of the power generating capabilities of such installations or the effect they may have on their cost of living in the future. The scientific community has long implicitly contended that the effect of solar should be large because it is far better for our planet than fossil fuels. It seems that investors are finally starting to agree. Competitive forces and governmental backing have given the solar industry some financial appeal. The economic figures for the solar industry in the United States in the last few years indicate that there is a chance solar energy becomes a more relevant part of peoples’ everyday lives.