Solar Power Accounts for 2.7 Percent Of U.S. Electricity Demands

A recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration details the fact that solar power has contributed 2.7 percent of the nation’s electricity needs for the first half of 2019.

This is another post inspired by a recent PV Magazine USA article.

The first half of 2018 had solar producing 2.4 percent of the country’s needs, so this year is a decent 0.3 percent more. As there has been a somewhat slight slowdown in the residential solar market recently, the increase in solar adoption is only 9 percent more this year (preceding years had higher growth rates for solar).

As expected, western states are still leading the pack in total solar capacity. Case in point, California’s solar installations account for a bit more than 17 percent of the state’s electricity needs. Hawaii’s solar capacity covers a significant 14.5 percent of its demands. Nevada is not far behind at 14.1, Arizona at 9.6, and Utah at 8.2.


Some noteworthy parts of the U.S. with significant recent solar adoption include Florida, Texas, and parts of the Midwest. It will, of course, take some time for other parts of the country to catch up the total solar power installation amounts of some of the western states.

There are two primary ideas to take away from this story.

The first point addresses solar power naysayers, many of whom claimed that solar would never account for a significant percentage of the country’s electricity needs. Sure, at just shy of 3 percent, solar still has a way to go but it is definitely on the map now!

A second point addresses where we can expect solar to be in the near future. There is every indication that the adoption rates of solar power will stay high. The overall costs involved with solar installations are still decreasing, although very slightly. Word is continuing to spread to both homeowners and utilities alike about how financially attractive solar power is now. Also, the viability of solar plus storage is also something that is looking better and better.

Considering the expected trajectory of the solar power industry, we can look forward to solar accounting for double digit percentages of the nation’s needs in the not too distant future. Investing in non-renewable sources of energy simply does not make sense from financial or environmental viewpoints.

We are still at the beginning of a massive transition to a solar powered society!

Florida’s Solar Industry Is Starting To Shine

About seven months ago, in November of 2018, I wrote a post on the fact that the solar power industry was about to take off in Florida. Well, here we are about half way through 2019 and that’s certainly the case.

This post comes by way of a PV Magazine article.

Of course, there’s no real surprise here. Large, utility-scale solar projects are announced many months in advance of ground being broken. And there was more than one large installation announced.

So how big has Florida’s solar expansion been so far in 2019?

One word. MASSIVE.

For the first quarter of 2019, Florida installed more solar power capacity than any other state in the country. Florida’s Q1 came in at 860 MW while California installed 838 MW. This is especially impressive as California is typically the largest installer of solar, quarter by quarter, year after year by wide margins.

Also, in all fairness to the state’s solar power industry, it first showed up on the solar map in a big way with about 400 MW in 2016. The difference now, of course, is that it is finally competing with California. Florida has plenty of land available for large scale solar installations, and being “The Sunshine State” helps too.

This trend will continue as Florida’s largest utility, Florida Power and Light, has announced a ten year goal of getting 30 million solar panels installed. This amounts to a capacity goal of 10 GW by 2030.

While this has mainly been utility-scale solar that has been mentioned so far, there’s now good indications that the residential market will start to finally pick up pace as well. Word is finally getting out how affordable solar is in Florida.

It should be mentioned, however, that a significant reason why the residential market stalled for many years was that the large solar leasing companies were not allowed to do business in the state. This, in turn, had many people thinking that going solar was simply not allowed at all. Unfortunately, many of those homeowners could have gone solar through other financing means.

There is a silver lining here. The new marketing efforts of these solar companies will help spread awareness of solar in general, and more savvy homeowners will choose to go solar. However, they will instead choose local companies as they will save thousands more with them.

U.S. Now Has Almost 50 Times As Much Solar Than 11 Years Ago

Much can change in a decade.

The solar power industry is a great example. There’s now 48 times more solar in the United States than there was 11 years ago. In 2008, solar only provided 2 terawatt-hours of electricity. That figure grew to 96 TWh by 2018, meeting more than 2 percent of the nation’s total electricity needs.

While 2 percent certainly is not a large figure, the question is – what will the next decade will bring? Solar has grown, on average, 47 percent per year over the past 11 years. Of course, this trend cannot continue as this would lead to solar providing 100 percent of the country’s needs by 2030. Technological, political, logistical, and industrial barriers would prevent this from happening. For example, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, if every rooftop in the country was covered with solar panels, that would only provide 39 percent of the nation’s total electricity needs.

Image source: Cleantechnica

So while solar will not meet the total electrical needs of the country by 2030, and in fact has suffered recent slowdowns, the industry is still on a general growth trend. In addition to very low prices for solar, the 30 percent savings from the Investment Tax Credit has been a significant factor in explaining the growth of the solar industry. This tax credit does not expire until the end of 2021.

Another consideration in how quickly we will utilize more solar power has to do with Renewable Portfolio Standards policies. Most of the states in the union have government mandated policies that state how much of their power needs must be met with sources of renewable energy. Quite a few of the more progressive states have goals of meeting 50 percent of their electricity needs with renewable sources by 2030. Even with these mandates, it’s difficult to predict how much any given state will invest into solar power in the coming years.

Over the next decade or so, it’s fair to say that the growth of solar power will resemble a bit more of a linear growth pattern as opposed to an exponential one. Although the growth rate will slow, we can expect solar to become a significant percentage of total electricity production in a decade from now.

More Than 10 GW Of Solar Installed In America In 2018

2018 was another strong year for the solar power industry in the United States.

Last year was the third year in a row that the country installed gigawatts of solar in double-digits. A total of 10.6 GW of solar PV (photovoltaics aka solar panels) were completed, bringing the total amount in the U.S. to 64.2 gigawatts. While this actually was a 2 percent decline from 2017, there are signs that the residential market is rebounding. Actually, over the next five years, we can expect a significant amount of new solar (details below).

The CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, Abigail Ross Harper, has stated – “The solar industry experienced growing pains in 2018, in large part due to the unnecessary tariffs that were imposed on solar cells and modules, but this report still finds significant reason for optimism. The total amount of solar installed in America is on track to more than double in the next five years, proving solar’s resiliency and its economic strength. It’s clear, this next decade is going to be one of significant growth.”

Source: Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables

A few key facts and figures from SEIA’s report include;

  • Q4 2018 saw an additional 4.2 GW installed.
  • Solar was a top source of new electrical generation for 6 straight years.
  • A total of 6.2 GW of utility-scale solar was added in 2018. This was 58 percent of new energy capacity.
  • Over the next 5 years, total solar capacity will double.

Installations are expected to increase by 14 percent in 2019, with the industry maintaining at least 15 GW of installed solar capacity every year after.

The primary indicator that the residential market is back on track relates to the fact that the fourth quarter of 2018 was the strongest quarter over the past 2 years. More than 300,000 households installed solar panels in 2018. In addition to the solar powerhouse state of California, other states that did especially well last year included Nevada, Texas, and Florida.

As a total of new electrical capacity added in the U.S. in 2018, solar PV accounted for a significant 29 percent. This number is bound to increase quite a bit as more than 13 GW of utility-scale solar contracts were signed in 2018. This figure represents the largest amount of potential capacity in the solar pipeline. Renewable portfolio standards and increasing corporate interests help explain this upcoming boost to the solar industry.

In conclusion, the U.S. solar industry is looking strong after an upswing in installations to close out 2018. The market is adjusting to tariffs, experiencing a more diversified field of contractors, and continuing to take advantage of the low cost of solar power.