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.
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.