Solar Industry Is Booming

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Solar has matured as an industry and is hitting the mainstream. Here are some impressive stats that help illustrate:

•  The solar power industry is the fastest growing industry in America. Today there are more than 5,500 companies operating in the U.S. solar supply chain employing more than 100,000 Americans. The value of the U.S. solar industry was $6 billion last year, a 67% increase over 2009, with the growth proceeding apace into 2011. The U.S. remains poised to install 1,750 megawatts of PV in 2011, double last year’s total and enough to power 350,000 homes (Source: SEIA & GTM Research’s Market Insight Report).

•  The U.S. is a net exporter of solar products. In 2010, U.S. solar firms achieved a positive trade flow of $1.9 billion globally. Furthermore, the U.S. was a net exporter of solar products to China last year by more than $240 million (Source: SEIA & GTM Research’s U.S. Solar Trade Assessment).

• Solar is achieving record cost reductions. Surging demand has dropped solar module prices approximately 75% in just the past three years, with another 50% expected over the next three, (Source: Navigant Consulting and other market data). This mirrors the experience with cell phones, digital cameras and flat-screen—and follows the rule of thumb in electronics manufacturing that costs decrease 20% each time production volume doubles. Those favorable technology prices combined with business efficiencies have delivered increasing value to consumers. The average pre-incentive cost of going solar decreased 17% in 2010 alone, the most significant annual reductions since the data has been tracked. Costs declined another 11% in the first half of 2011 (Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Tracking the Sun IV).

• Solar prices are competitive with conventional power right now.Utility contracts for solar power are being signed in the U.S. at prices competitive with new coal and natural gas plants and well below the cost of new nuclear. Utilities in California, the nation’s largest solar market, have secured contracts for over 4.4 gigawatts of solar at prices below new natural gas generation, (Source: Vote Solar analysis).

• An investment in solar is an investment in jobs. Solar investments creates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy resource,  (Source: UC Berkeley Energy Resources Group). 100,237 Americans are currently working in the U.S. solar industry – that’s more than coal mining or steel & iron manufacturing. Solar businesses added 6,735 new workers in all 50 states since August 2010, which represents a 6.8 percent growth rate. During the same 12-month period, jobs in the overall economy grew by a mere 0.7 percent, while fossil fuel electric generation lost 2 percent of its workforce (Source: Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census – 2011).

• U.S. investment in solar lags far behind spending on conventional energy resources. Federal incentives going to the oil & gas industry have averaged $4.86 billion annually for 100 years, and nuclear has averaged $3.5 billion for 50 years. Meanwhile annual support for all renewables including solar has averaged only $370 million for just the past 15 years, (Source: DBL Investors).