Since the beginning of this year, there has been an unprecedented amount of solar activity across the U.S., with a total of nearly 500 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity being added across the country. In fact, 2019 was already the second-best year ever recorded for solar energy in the United States, only being surpassed by 2018, which had 562 MW of installed capacity.
Whether you’re interested in pursuing a career in the solar energy industry or just want to learn more about the topic, this report will help provide some key insights into the growing field.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
Solar energy is abundant in the U.S., with approximately 95% of the country receiving at least some sunlight exposure throughout the year.
Photovoltaic cells are among the most efficient and popular ways to generate electricity from solar energy, with silicon-based solar cells being the most common type of solar cell. These cells can convert sunlight directly into electricity with more than 90% efficiency.
When exposed to sunlight, silicon-based solar cells produce electricity with a maximum efficiency of approximately 16%, which exceeds the energy conversion efficiency of most traditional power plants. As a result, large-scale solar energy systems are able to generate an affordable, clean, and sustainable source of electricity for use across the country.
Why Are Americans Generating More Solar Energy Than Ever?
The increasing popularity of solar energy in the U.S. can be largely attributed to two main factors. First, the majority of U.S. consumers now realize the importance of being energy-independent and are looking for ways to cut their energy bills. Second, solar energy is among the cleanest and most sustainable energy sources, allowing individuals and businesses to have greener and greener alternatives.
The cost of solar energy systems has also decreased significantly over the past few years, which has made it more affordable for average consumers. In fact, a standard solar energy system can now be purchased for under $5 per day, which includes everything from labor and materials.
There are currently more than 150,000 MW of solar energy capacity installed in the U.S., with approximately 120,000 MW of that capacity being deployed across the country. This is an astounding figure, considering that less than 10,000 MW of solar energy systems were installed in 2014. As a result of these figures, it is safe to assume that we have not yet seen the peak of solar energy deployment in the U.S.
Where Does Most Solar Energy Go In The U.S.?
The majority of installed solar energy capacity in the U.S. is located in California, with approximately 75,000 MW of solar energy systems having been installed there. It is followed by Texas, with approximately 12,000 MW of solar capacity, and Arizona, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, each with about 9,000 MW. Together, those five states contain more than 90% of all the solar energy systems currently installed in the country.
Sunshine is one of the most important factors in any state, as nearly all of the solar energy systems in the country are located there. California, in particular, has the greatest density of solar energy systems per capita, with one out of every four homes there being equipped with a solar power system.
How Is Solar Energy Changing The Way We Look At Energy?
Thanks to government support and financial incentives, solar power has opened up new career opportunities and boosted the economy. Many large energy companies and conglomerates have also gotten in on the action, purchasing solar energy equipment and installations for use at their operations. This, in turn, has helped drive the cost of solar equipment and installation significantly down, resulting in a more affordable and accessible option for consumers.
As time goes on, we can expect to see more individuals, families, and homes utilizing solar energy as a cleaner, more sustainable, and cheaper source of energy. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that we may eventually see a resurgence of small power plants and decentralized energy systems, similar to what we saw in the 19th century, before the major utility companies came about.
A Look At The Future Of Solar Energy In The U.S.
In 2022 and 2030, the U.S. solar energy industry is projected to become quite the powerhouse, with 24 million and 28 million MW of capacity respectively projected to be installed in those years. As a result of these figures, the United States will likely become the world’s largest producer of solar energy, providing nearly all of the power needed for daily life.
It is important to note, however, that while the U.S. will become the world’s leading producer of solar energy, it will still be lagging behind in terms of per capita energy consumption. The energy needs of the average American are projected to increase by 40% in the next two decades, far more than the rate of energy generation from solar power systems.
This means that while solar power will become more and more affordable for individuals and families, it may not be able to satisfy the increasing demand for electricity. For this reason, it is important to continue researching sustainable energy sources, such as wind power and hydroelectricity.