Solar is the Fastest-Growing Industry in the US

by Jay Kimball on 01 July 2011

solar statistics 2011 Q1Some good jobs news: “Solar is the fastest-growing industry in the US” according to Rhone Resch, President of  The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), during his remarks accompanying release of the quarterly report “US Solar Market Insight.”  The report was jointly prepared and released by SEIA and Greentech Media (GTM).

The graphic at right summarizes the stunning growth of the solar industry. Here are highlights from the report:

Solar Driving Jobs Creation

Rhone Resch said that the solar industry employs 100,000 Americans and that that number could double in the next two years. Within a few years, the US will be the world’s largest solar market, according to SEIA.

While California, New Jersey, and Arizona remained the top three states for solar installations, Pennsylvania jumped to the number 4 position, from number 8 in the rank last year. Maryland made the biggest move from 16th to 8th in the ranks.

Solar Growing Fast

Solar electric installations surpassed one gigawatt for the first time, and the US shows signs of being one of the top, if not the top global market for solar in the coming years. New solar photovoltaic (PV) installations for Q1 2011 grew 66% over Q1 2010. Total growth of the US solar market was up 67% in 2010, over 2009.

Solar industry manufacturing growth exceeded 31%, compared to less than 4% for overall manufacturing in the US in 2010.

Solar Pricing Continues To Improve

In Q1 2011 for the solar industry, jobs were up, installations were way up for PV and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), manufacturing growth was up and prices are coming down. Solar system pricing is down 15 percent from Q1 2010.

While fossil fuels continue getting more and more expensive and extraction of oil, gas and coal becomes more and more toxic, the much cleaner renewable energy sector, including the solar industry, pricing is getting cheaper and cheaper.

Key Details

Photovoltaics (PV):

  • Grid-connected PV installations in Q1 2011 grew 66% over Q1 2010 to reach 252 MW.
  • Cumulative grid-connected PV in the U.S. has now reached over 2.3 GW.
  • Cumulative grid-connected solar electric (PV and CSP) has now reached 2.85 GW.
  • The top seven states installed 88% of all PV in Q1 2011, up from 82% in 2010.
  • Commercial installations in Q1 2011 more than doubled over Q1 2010 in 10 of the top 21 states.
  • U.S. module production increased by 17% relative to Q4 2010, from 297 MW to 348 MW. While production from export-oriented firms and facilities dipped materially because of soft demand in the key feed-in tariff markets of Germany and Italy, plants that serve the domestic market enjoyed far healthier utilization of manufacturing capacity.
  • After a year of flat-to-increased pricing for some PV components in 2010, annual beginning-of-year feed-in tariff cuts and depressed global demand in Q1 2011 resulted in substantial price declines. Wafer and cell prices dropped by around 15% each, while module prices fell around 7%.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP):

  • The 500-MW Blythe CSP plant obtained a $2.1 billion DOE loan guarantee.
  • Construction is underway on the-30 MW Alamosa CPV plant, with expected completion in 2011.
  • There is a concentrating solar (combined CSP and CPV) pipeline of over 9 GW in the U.S.; more than 2.4 GW have signed power purchase agreements.
  • In total, 1,100 MW of CSP and CPV are now under construction in the U.S.

All Solar Markets:

  • The total value of US solar market installations grew 67 percent from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6.0 billion in 2010.
  • Solar electric installations in 2010 totaled 956 megawatts (MW) to reach a cumulative installed capacity of 2.6 gigawatts (GW), enough to power more than half a million households.

Solar PV installations continue their exponential growth.

US PV Installations

US PV Installations 2005 through Q1 2011

The extraordinary growth of solar makes sense. Think of sunlight as free oil. It’s all around us every day, available for collection. No need for drilling and no threat of oil spills or toxic emissions. Solar panels convert the free energy into electricity or heat. And they do it with remarkable efficiency. It takes energy to produce energy, and to my mind, one of the most important ways to measure the energy performance of something is by calculating the Energy Returned on Energy Invested (ERoEI) – which measures how much energy it takes to produce the energy. The higher the ERoEI, the better. Here’s a chart showing the ERoEI for various energy sources.

ERoEI

 

Oil ERoEI TrendSolar and wind have the highest ERoEI of all sources of energy, and they are trending higher. Meanwhile, looking at oil, the easy oil has been extracted, what remains is increasingly expensive and difficult to get to, and toxic to extract and process. It takes much more energy to produce a barrel of oil today than it did just 50 years ago. Oil’s ERoEI has plummeted from about 100:1 in the 1950′s to about 10:1 today.

In the US Energy Information Administration’s most recent Monthly Energy Review, they show that domestic production of renewable energy has surpassed that of nuclear power.

During the first quarter of 2011, renewable energy sources (note that this includes biomass/biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, wind):

  • Provided 11.73 percent of U.S. energy production.
  • Delivered 5.65 percent more than that from nuclear power.
  • Energy from renewable sources is now 77.15 percent of that from domestic crude oil production.

Looking at just the electricity sector, according to the latest issue of EIA’s Electric Power Monthly, for the first quarter of 2011, renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) accounted for 12.94 percent of net U.S. electrical generation — up from 10.31 percent during the same period in 2010.

In terms of actual production, renewable electrical output increased by 25.82 percent in the first three months of 2011 compared to the first quarter of 2010. Solar-generated electricity increased by 104.8 percent, wind-generated electricity rose by 40.3 percent, hydropower output expanded by 28.7 percent, and geothermal electrical generation rose by 5.8 percent. Only electricity from biomass sources dropped, by 4.8 percent. By comparison, natural gas electrical output rose by 1.8 percent and nuclear-generated electricity increased by only 0.4 percent, while coal-generated electricity dropped by 5.7 percent.

The chart below is a concise view of the energy flow from various energy sources and destinations. Though it is only current through 2009, it gives a remarkable view into the complex landscape of where our energy comes from and how we use it.

eia energy flow 2009

(source: EIA)

U.S. Solar Market InsightTM Background Materials:

Executive Summary

Details on the reports

The U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2010

June 16 Press Conference

The Q2 2011 edition of US Solar Market Insight will be available in September 2011.

Other Background Materials:

2010 National Solar Jobs Census

Details on the solar energy companies operating in each state, plus examples of the jobs being created

US Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2010 report finds the US is a net exporter of solar products

Major Solar Projects list

 

  • http://8020vision.com jaykimball

    More on renewable energy trends here:

    http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2011/07/renewable-power-booms-in-developing-world-as-it-tops-nuclear-in-the-us.ars

    Much of the growth in renewables is being driven fastest by China…

  • Paul Felix Schott

    When this Old World starts getting you down. From Pollution the cost of OIL,
    Heating Fuel,The Fuel you put in your Vehicles, You Electric Bills from
    cooling air conditioners and lights not to speak of the Evil. The TAX that all
    Governments Federal, State, County and City put on everything they can thing of.
    They are supposed to serve us. Not put a burden on its people. That they are
    elected to serve all the people you, not their own Pocket Books.

    The Wicked keep putting higher taxes on everything. Making it a Heavy
    Burden on many that are already struggling just to put food on the table.
    Too many Americans have lost their home to the tax collector or to foreclosures
    from the unjust bankers greed. More are out of work and lost their homes then
    in the GREAT DEPRESSION, in the last ten years. All Americans and many Nations
    need good jobs and more of them. Not more TAXES.

    All Taxes need to be lowered now while there is still time to save America.

    There is a Industry that will employ workers and is growing by more then 50%
    every year. There is a clear way for all up on the roof the Sun Light is free
    fuel from GOD. Some wicked in Government have been backing Coal, Oil, Gas and
    the Nuclear industries for too many years. These kickbacks to them were called
    Subsidizing Industry Technology. Most all Wise Men and smart Economist and
    Environmentalists call this padding their pockets and subsidizing back to the
    Stone Age.

    This might even been funny in the 1960?s. If it were a Fred Flintstones and
    Barny Rubble Movie. About How to aggressively systematically work with the rich
    to Pollute Ground Water quality to the point it is unsafe to drink or use.
    So to they make a law you can only buy water from their pipe line. And to make
    the air we breath full of Toxic Gases, Sulfur Dioxide and more Radioactive
    and Acid Rain. Injuring all living things on Earth.

    With Fred Flintstones to the Rescue. To help create a Healthier Environment.
    For all Future Generations. By spotlighting Renewable Energy and Free Energy
    like Wind and Solar. On his and his neighbor Barny Rubble’s roof. Even though
    the greedy wicked would do everything to stop or slow them down.

    Just imagine a dream that a 100 years ago one of the smartest man to ever
    live had. A dream after working with Sun Light. That all on Earth would use
    Free Energy Solar Energy.

    That Dream also shared by a man that dreamed this over 2,250 years ago.
    Both These men showed the world in their days. That this dream of Free Energy
    Solar Energy World wide was very possible. Both of these two wise men had
    first hand worked and researched their experiments for not just days, weeks
    put for many years.

    One of these men used chalk on Black Board the others board was a black
    stone table or floor covered with white sand and used a stick. One of these
    two Brilliant men had Kings from all most every Kingdom on Earth come to him
    for advice.

    The other went to almost every nation on Earth. Freely on his own dime
    Teaching All that had ears to hear. He would win the Nobel Prize for doing so.
    For his work on Solar Energy. Only after years of doing research and when most
    Scientist on Earth would not take the nomination for the Nobel Prize in 1921
    this Brilliant scientist was awarded it in 1922 for the 1921 year.

    Now if this was just a Pretend TV Show or a Movie from a dream. This would
    be a great Sci Fi Story Line. In the 1960?s or even better to day. Sci Fi story
    Movie or dream No.

    All that i Have told you did actually really happen. Albert Einstein won the
    Nobel Prize for what? When Government leaders asked him to go on stage. To
    address the Scientific Community and the World. About what he was given the
    Nobel Prize for. When Albert Einstein Had done so. He addressed them with his
    other accomplishments. For years most Governments did not have a ear for
    Einstein’s Dream.

    Archimedes around 250 B.C. was know most of the World over as a great
    Mathematician. One of the first Scientist and Inventor of many things. Even
    the first Laser Ray from the Sun’s Energy. Science Fiction is what you would
    have though you were seeing if you could go back in time, it was real.To day
    we call it The LASER, Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission. Back then it
    was just called Amplification of the SUN Archimedes Death Ray.

    Thousand of years later it would be a Laser. That Albert Einstein help
    make possible. That would unlock one of the first books on Earth.
    The METHOD written by Archimedes. Then over more then 250 years later. When
    well Faded was cut from a scroll and put into a book form, to be easier to
    hide from the Romans by St. Paul. This book sold for over 2 million dollars.
    In New york at Christie’s Auction House.

    These two are at the top of the list of the World’s Greatest Scientists,
    Viewed by Scientist around the World.

    Sad that for the last 25 years or so of every teacher asked no matter what
    Grade k through 16. 80% of them did not know Archimedes. Even sadder 90%
    of them could not tell you what one of the most Brilliant Scientist to ever
    live on Earth. Won the Nobel Prize for.

    It was for the work Albert Einstein did to show the World it could get
    Free Energy, Electric from the SUN. PHOTOVOLTAICS

    You ask this question to any Military general 95% of them will get it right.
    Even more surprising 99% of them will know more about Archimedes then most
    Teachers on Earth. Generals know Energy is the key to Winning.

    At almost one thousand to one Archimedes always won against what all knew was
    impossible odds. Archimedes home town city of Syracuse was victorious against the
    greatest Kingdoms Armies on earth many times. Syracuse once was one of the most
    powerful cities in the World.

    I can only ask you to please look into Solar Energy, Solar Power, Solar Panels
    and Solar array on the internet under Images. To see and explore for your self
    then you be the JURY.

    More then 10 years ago the Internet became most of the World’s Universities
    Learning Platform. A Modern Day Archimedes Resource Center.

    The Solar Energy Industry in the year 2010 has leaped ahead farther and
    faster then any other industry on Earth. The Solar Industry in the
    United States of America alone, has grown by more then 50% in 2010 and it looks
    like that number will go up even higher this year 2011.

    The strong benefits of Solar Energy is Clear Clean Air viewed in major cities
    as improving air quality. Clean Cities. By all that use there brain for good .
    View it as protecting the environment and Freedom from OIL.

    While the Federal Government has eased the Tax on Renewable Energy till the end
    of this year 2011. Some cities in the states that these Legislators come from have
    worked against these tax credits.

    By doing so they are showing their true objectives. That they have
    stock in some power plants and do not want to lose all that Money they
    have been taking out of your pocket books for too many years. By taxing
    you on your Energy Bills. They want to Control Power and Tax Everything
    they can. Not let People be free to get their own power from the top of
    their own roofs.

    By adding their own taxes to them. These wicked leaders think that
    this will take away the incentives to harvest the Free Energy from the
    Sun.

    The Public ability and awareness for all on Earth to use the Natural
    Solar Energy, is Contributing to Production of Solar Energy Products.
    Making the Solar Energy Industry the fastest growing on Earth. A Wealth
    of Free Energy From The SUN.

    The more the wicked try to slow the Solar Energy Industry down, it only Enhances
    involvement and the efforts of the Good at Heart.

    GOD Bless you for reading this.

    The Lord’s little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

    PS
    through out History Many have tried to wipe the good from our history books.
    Read the Bible Jesus will Bless you more then i can.

  • Michael

    I have recently been reading a lot about how solar power is one of the few industries that has increased the number of jobs in recent years. Many of these companies (like the company Sungevity I saw here: http://www.sungevity.com/solar-lease-d ) also offer leasing options which is pretty interesting. I never thought I’d be able to lease a solar roof panel to get me discounts on my electricity bill. I’m considering getting one installed, or at least checking into costs.

  • bshive

    Your wind and solar EROEI calculations are grossly overestimated.

  • http://8020vision.com jaykimball

    Why? Tell me more about why you think they are high.

    If you are referring to the ERoEI, keep in mind, that they represent a range of state of the art, established, and emerging technologies, and the trend is up.

Previous post:

Next post: