The solar industry in the United States has been booming for the past few years. With technology getting cheaper, state level mandates, and people getting educated about the massive saving that come with switching to solar, 2016 was a massive year for solar installations.
The U.S. solar industry in 2016 saw a 95% increase in installs over 2015. 14,626 megawatts(enough to power 2.3 million homes) of energy were installed in 2016 compared to 7,493 megawatts in 2015. For the first time since 2011, non-residential solar growth surpasses residential solar growth(GreenTechMedia).
“What these numbers tell you is that the solar industry is a force to be reckoned with,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “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. (GreenTechMedia)”
For the first time ever, solar became the leading source of new energy generation, accounting for 39% of all new energy generation. The growth was led by utility scale PV projects which grew by 145% in 2016 (GreenTechMedia). Utility scale PV growth was spurred by projects that had already been in the pipeline but were waiting to see how the federal tax credit extension would unfold. The 30% federal tax credit was extended until 2021 which green lighted many of these large scale projects.
The growth of solar energy was led by California which installed one third of all U.S. solar in 2016. California witnessed a rush in demand for solar due to scares over net metering and distributed solar policy changes; similar to what is happening in Utah with Rocky Mountain Power.
2016 was a great year for solar. The United States now houses over 1.3 million solar installations which generate 40 gigawatts of electricity. This is enough electricity to power approximately 6.5 million homes. Solar energy generation is heading down the right path but the outlook for 2017 is still unsure as net-metering changes continue to be debated in states like California and Utah.