A new report shows that 2013 was another banner, record-setting year for solar energy in the U.S., with 4,751 megawatts (MW) of new photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed--a year-over-year increase of 41 percent--with another 410 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) coming online. A record 2,106 MW of solar power capacity was installed in the fourth quarter alone, amounting to 44 percent of the annual total. That bests the old quarterly record by 60 percent.
As of year-end, there were more than 445,000 solar electric systems generating clean, renewable electrical power in the U.S. That amounts to more than 12,000 MW of PV and 918 MW of CSP capacity–enough for some 2.2 million average U.S. homes, according to the GTM Research-Solar Energy Industry Association's (SEIA) “Solar Market Insight Year in Review 2013.”
Solar accounted for 29 percent of all new electricity generation capacity added in 2013, second only to natural gas, which accounted for 46 percent. In the aggregate, 2013 statistics indicate that solar energy is on the cusp of going mainstream in the U.S., if it isn't already there. A geographic breakdown of solar installations shows that this is indeed the case, but only in a few U.S. states.
The high level of geographic concentration reveals just how far solar energy is from being a major factor in the mainstream energy mix for the U.S. as a whole. But it also reveals the tremendous growth potential that still exists. With solar costs continuing to fall, technology continuing to improve, and acceptance at the grassroots level and among large investors on the rise, it appears that even better times lie ahead.
Ongoing declines in solar manufacturing and installation costs, along with ongoing increases in energy conversion efficiencies, continue to drive solar deployments higher. So too does continuing support at the state and federal levels. And so too do new financing mechanisms that are broadening access to new categories of investors and lowering the cost of capital for industry participants.
“Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America, generating enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to power more than 2.2 million homes–and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of our industry’s enormous potential."
“Last year alone, solar created tens of thousands of new American jobs and pumped tens of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy. In fact, more solar has been installed in the U.S. in the last 18 months than in the 30 years prior. That’s a remarkable record of achievement.”
An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.