In the last decade alone, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 42%. 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 100 gigawatts of solar capacity installed nationwide enough to power 18.9 million homes. As of 2020, more than 230,000 Americans work in solar at more than 10,000 companies. In 2020, the solar industry generated more than $25 billion of private investment in the American economy.
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. 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 has ranked first or second in new electric capacity additions in each of the last 8 years. In 2020, 43% of all new electric capacity added to the grid came from solar, the largest such share in history and the second year in a row that solar added the most generating capacity to the grid. While California has traditionally dominated the U.S. solar market, other markets are continuing to expand rapidly, mostly Florida and Texas.
Homeowners and businesses are increasingly demanding solar systems that are paired with battery storage. By 2025, nearly 25% of all behind-the-meter solar systems will be paired with storage, compared to under 6% in 2020. The utility-scale market is also recognizing the benefits of pairing solar with storage, with over 26 GW of commissioned or announced projects including storage, representing over a quarter of all contracted projects.
Despite obstacles posed by the pandemic, the U.S. solar market set a new annual record with 19.2 GW installed in 2020. With an historic utility-scale pipeline and recovering demand in the residential and non-residential segments, the industry is set for a series of record years until 2024, when the ITC is scheduled to fully step down. Barring new policy developments at the state and federal levels, industry growth through the end of the decade is premised on continued price declines and growing demand from utilities, states, corporations and distributed solar customers. Over the next 10 years, 348GW will be installed, more than 3 times the amount installed through 2020. A combination of private sector innovation and stable, long-term public policy will set the solar industry on a path to achieving these more aggressive goals to address climate change and decarbonize the economy. Data from SEIA’s annual “Solar Means Business” report show that major U.S. corporations, including Apple, Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Google are investing in solar and renewable energy at an incredible rate.
Source: SEIA, 2021.