For the U.S. solar industry, 2016 will be remembered as the year that solar first hit the energy mainstream. In this post, we’re highlighting the major moments that made 2016 a solar year to remember – plus a few things that we’re looking forward to in 2017.
Landmark moments for solar in 2016
The solar industry reached one million installations. In February 2016, the one millionth solar PV system was installed in the United States. Dan Whitten, vice president of communications at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), stated, “This is a time to mark when the solar industry started to accelerate at warp speed.” According to SEIA, it will only take two more years to hit two million installations.
Solar became the cheapest form of new electricity. Market analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) found that, in 2016, building a new solar farm was less expensive than wind for the first time. In some areas – particularly lower-income countries – solar power is also less than half the price of coal. For countries that are adding new electricity capacity as quickly as possible, “renewable energy will beat any other technology in most of the world without subsidies,” according to BNEF chairman Michael Liebreich.
Solar milestones to come in 2017
Solar will continue to grow, regardless of politics. President-elect Donald Trump might be skeptical about climate change, but clean energy advocates are optimistic about the future of solar in the U.S. In addition to being cheaper than most other forms of energy production, jobs in the solar business are growing 12 times faster than overall job creation – there are now more Americans working in solar than in coal mining and oil & gas extraction combined. An October 2016 survey by Pew Research Center found that nearly nine in 10 U.S. adults favor the expanding use of solar power – meaning solar is more popular than any other form of energy production in the country. And with businesses and state governments uniting on clean energy, there’s no stopping the solar momentum.
New technologies will make solar even better. 2017 promises to be the biggest year yet for innovative solar solutions, including:
- The Tesla solar roof: Elon Musk has done it again. The innovative entrepreneur revealed Tesla’s solar roof technology in October, showcasing glass solar tiles that replace traditional roof tiles while simultaneously producing solar electricity.
- Solar batteries for every home: A wide variety of companies announced new solar energy storage products in 2016, but 2017 promises to be the year that home batteries become economical for many solar system owners.
- Community solar options: In the past, homeowners and businesses who couldn’t install solar on their roofs didn’t have many alternative options for local renewable energy, but the advent of community solar gardens is changing that. In 2017, dozens of shared solar installations will go online across the country, making it possible for anybody with an electric bill to access solar energy.