For the first time, solar energy accounted for all new utility electricity generation capacity added to the U.S. grid last month, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) March 2013 “Energy Infrastructure Update.” More than 44MW of solar electric capacity was brought online from seven projects in California, Nevada, New Jersey, Hawaii, Arizona, and North Carolina. All other energy sources combined added no new generation.
Solar also had a strong showing in FERC’s quarterly generation numbers, accounting for about 30% of all utility-scale new capacity. The report focuses exclusively on larger facilities and does not include energy generated by net-metered installations. Net-metered systems account for more than half of all U.S. solar electric capacity.
“This speaks to the extraordinary strides we have made in the past several years to bring down costs and ramp up deployment,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Since 2008, the amount of solar powering U.S. homes, businesses, and military bases has grown by more than 600% — from 1,100MW to more than 7,700MW. As FERC’s report suggests, and many analysts predict, solar will grow to be our nation’s largest new source of energy over the next four years.”
FERC’s report supports other findings which show solar power to be one of the fastest growing energy sources in the U.S., powering homes, businesses and utility grids across the nation. The Solar Market Insight annual edition shows the U.S. installed 3,313MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2012, a record for the industry.
Some of this growth is attributed to the fact that the cost of a solar system has dropped by nearly 40% over the past two years, making solar more affordable than ever for utilities and consumers.
“In 2012, the United States brought more new solar capacity online than in the three prior years combined,” Resch added. “These new numbers from FERC support our forecast that solar will continue a pattern of growth in 2013, adding 5.2GW of solar electric capacity. This sustained growth is enabling the solar industry to create thousands of good jobs and to provide clean, affordable energy for more families, businesses, utilities, and the military than ever before.”
America’s solar industry employs 119,000 workers throughout the country. That’s a 13.2% growth over 2011’s jobs numbers, making solar one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the nation.