2014 Marks Solar’s Biggest Year


We’ve been talking nonstop about all the ways in which solar is taking over the U.S. Georgia is the fastest growing solar state. Tax rebates are still kicking, solar jobs are growing at an exponential rate, and rooftop solar panels increase the value of a person’s home. Now, analysis firm GTM Research found 2014 was solar’s biggest year ever.

According to Mother Jones, there 30 percent more photovoltaic installations last year than in 2013. They go as far as to compare the numbers to other energy sources, and demonstrate that while solar power still accounts for a very small percentage of U.S. electricity, in 2014 it added as many new megawatts to the electric grid as natural gas. Meanwhile, coal added nearly nothing new last year.

Part of the reason for this boom has been falling costs. It’s cheaper now than ever to install residential solar panels, with costs nearly half of what they were in 2005. Additionally, utility companies and third-party solar installers have found new ways to bring solar to consumers. Many homes that can’t afford to outright purchase solar panels are leasing them, and those that can buy solar panels are taking advantage of federal incentives and state tax rebates to lower the cost of installation.

Another reason has been the increased building of solar farms. While rooftop solar is what directly affects homeowners the most, utility-scale solar is the leading source. There’s the Topaz Solar project in the California desert, which is the largest solar farm in the world, and Apple’s announcement of investing in a solar farm large enough to power its Cupertino facilities and California Apple stores. Plus, Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators want to obtain 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030. That’s very ambitious, and will require the Golden State to build a system mostly based on solar and wind power.

But can solar power really sustain? The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) states that photovoltaic (PV) systems accounted for only half a percent of electricity production, compared to natural gas accounting for 27 percent. But the EIA also said PV generation from 2013 to 2014 grew by more than 100 percent. Given the rapid increase in solar power across the board, and the fact that solar power is virtually free of carbon emissions, solar has a chance to get truly competitive with traditional energy sources.

So what does 2015 bring? Will solar continue to expand by leaps and bounds with both homeowners and utility companies? So far, the answer seems like a yes.

How do you feel about solar’s growth? Do you think solar power will break records in 2015? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credit GeeJo under a Creative Commons license

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