It looks like the future may be solar. In 2016, the number of solar photovoltaic (solar panel) installations increased by 95 percent from the previous year, a record breaking statistic, according to Solar Energies Industry Association’s Q4 U.S. Solar Market Insight report.
Solar accounted for 39 percent of the United States’s new energy capacity additions across all sources last year. The increase in capacity is spread out between utility, residential, and non-residential areas with utility accounting for the largest increase.
In 2016 alone, 14,626 megawatts (one thousand kilowatts) of solar PV were installed. To put this in perspective, one thousand watts of power is one kilowatt hour, or one hour of electricity at a rate of one thousand watts. The average U.S. household uses 10,812 kilowatts hours of electricity each year.
However, increased capacity refers to the number of installations, where energy could potentially come from, it doesn’t directly correlate with the amount of energy introduced to the grid or energy produced. Nonetheless, solar is increasing energy production and green jobs. “Solar's economically-winning hand is generating strong growth across all market segments nationwide, leading to more than 260,000 Americans now employed in solar,” said SEIA’s President and CEO, Abigail Ross Hopper, in a release.
While it’s promising that solar capacity is increasing, the future of funding for climate research, tax credits for green energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency are at risk under the Trump administration which may lead to a change in the upward trend the industry has seen over the last decade.