The United States Now Has More Than 2 Million Solar Panel Installations

According to (Solar Energy Industries Association), there are now more than 2 million solar panel installations across the United States. This represents a significant milestone for an industry that is poised for further growth.

It was just a few years ago that the solar industry in the U.S. began to finally grow at good rates. The SEIA predicts that these impressive growth rates will continue.“This $17 billion industry is on track to double again in five years, and we believe that the 2020s will be the decade that solar becomes the dominant new form of energy generation.” – Abigail Hopper, SEIA’s President and CEO.

While it took the industry 40 years to reach one million installations (and 3 more years for the second), the 3 millionth and 4 millionth is expected to happen in 2021 and 2023, respectively. At this pace, solar power is poised to become the new dominant source of energy in the 2020’s.

The first few years of solar installations in America saw California as being by far the leader in solar. While this is still the case, other states have seen their solar industries experience massive growth. For example, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Utah, Maryland, and Rhode Island has seen considerable growth in recent years. The total solar market in these states is now 4 times larger (going from 50,000 installations to 200,000) than what it was 3 years ago. The following image shows a growth trend for the states that have been in the top five list over the years.

Based on this incredible expected solar growth, the SEIA expects that a solar installation will take place every single minute by 2024. This is in stark contrast with 2010, in which a new solar installation took place every 10 minutes across the country. The idea that in a little more than a decade, solar installations will occur ten times as quickly is truly remarkable.

At the residential scale, it is expected that 2.5 percent of the homes in America will be solar powered by 2024.

All of this data, from the perspective of homeowners, represents an enormous opportunity to finally save a good deal of money on their electric bills and it allows them to do the right thing environmentally as well. That’s something everyone can feel good about.

Solar Is Becoming The Next Cash Crop For Farmers

Farmers across the country are starting to install solar panel systems as a new way to make money.

This particular post will highlight a WaPo article that focused on farmers in Illinois. According to the article, hundreds of farmers have applied to have solar panel systems be connected to the grid so that they can sell the excess energy that the systems generate.

These farmers have realized that the profits generated from excess solar will lead to more money than what can currently be attained from crops. According to the University of Illinois, prices for corn are 7 percent lower and soybean prices have fallen 15 percent. Also, farmers are doing their part to help the state reach its mandated goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.

 (Youngrae Kim/For The Washington Post)

The state is expecting about 1,000 total applicants for this solar program. About 100 of them will receive agreements to be accepted into the program starting (now) March, 2019. This will bring the solar production capacity to between 80 and 100 MW. According to the Illinois Solar Energy Association, a total of 10,000 MW of solar capacity will eventually need to be installed to meet the state’s goals.

There is concern, however, that taking prime, fertile farm land away from food production might have dire consequences. “The soils here in Illinois are some of the most productive soils in the world” – soil scientist Robert Rhykerd. The U.N. expects world’s population to rise to 9.8 billion by 2050 so feeding that additional 2 billion people is a concern, to say the least.

While Rhykerd and other experts see the importance of increasing food production, they also realized that farmers need to be able to make a living. For many of these farmers, solar power is helping them make ends meet.

Farmers and universities are also being very smart about exactly where solar farms are set up. Obviously, less fertile areas are chosen for solar panel installations. Evan DeLucia, director for the center of Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, knows the importance of this. “As an ecologist and sustainability person, I really am concerned about the expansion of solar onto prime farmlands. So that’s something to look at really closely.”

Much like the general solar industry across the country, it’s very early days for solar power on farmlands. They certainly have the land and financial incentive to consider utilizing solar energy.

Farmers will surely continue to install more solar panel systems well into the future.

Solar Panels Now Required On New Homes In California

The California Building Standards Commission has just approved a mandate that states that all new residential construction starting January 1, 2020 must include solar panels.

While many news outlets covered this story, was the primary source used for this post.

Originally proposed back in May by the commission’s Green Buildings Standards Code, the mandate has just passed with a unanimous vote. The rule will apply to all new condos, apartment buildings, and houses. Exceptions will be buildings that are higher than three stories and ones that are often shaded or where space is limited.

California solar mandate
(Photo by Will Lester- The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Kent Sasaki, one of the commissioners interviewed stated, “These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country. It’s the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.”

It is estimated that solar panel installations will cost an average of $10,000 per build.  However, this investment will be more than offset by savings from long term solar power generation, which will be approximately $19,000 on average. These figures were obtained from Drew Bohan, the executive director of the energy commission. Mr. Bohan also mentioned – “With extreme weather events becoming more frequent, there is even greater need for homes that are efficient, reliable, and resilient.”

For those future California homeowners concerned about a lack of options or decision making control, that has been considered. Options to purchase the panels outright, lease them, or enter into a power purchase agreement will be made available. In some cases, homeowners will be able to pool resources together instead of installing solar on every single home. This is basically the “community solar” idea that has already been implemented in cities across the country. Those potentially concerned about costs should know that many industry groups are also supportive of this new solar mandate.

This mandate will not be surprising to many, as California continues to be a leader in clean energy adoption. In fact, this proposal will go along way in helping the state meet its goal of being completely renewable energy powered by 2045.

Savvy homebuyers will choose to purchase their solar panels. Many should be able to add the costs into their mortgage. The financials should be about the same if a separate loan is needed. Either way, the solar savings are quite a few thousand more compared to leasing or power purchase agreements.