In 2020, U.S. solar installations hit a record high with 19.2 gigawatts of new capacity, showing growth of 43% over the previous year, despite the widespread economic uncertainties and instabilities of a pandemic year. In just the first quarter of 2021, the U.S. has installed 5 gigawatts (GWdc) of solar PV capacity to reach an unprecedented 102.8 GWdc of total installed capacity, enough ‘green energy’ to power 18.6 million American homes. Almost all new energy installations countrywide this year were renewables, with solar accounting for a formidable 58%.
Falling solar prices and supportive government policies have resulted in a shift away from polluting fossil fuels and a complete transition to clean energy in America.
Fighting global climate change has been declared a top priority for the Biden administration and solar energy is an important part of this critical mission. The administration recognizes that despite solar’s unprecedented growth, it still represents only 3% of the total electricity generated in the country. The Biden administration has called for a carbon-free power sector by 2035. The government recognizes that for this to be possible, solar energy will need to provide as much as 40% of America’s electricity by 2035. In a $1 trillion infrastructure plan approved by the U.S. Senate this August, the administration is on its way to power a landmark shift away from fossil fuels and toward a more sustainable future.
In order to take solar power adoption to the next level, the Biden administration aims to radically bring down the cost of residential and commercial solar. The Department of Energy’s goal is for the cost of energy for a solar residential system to reach 5 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2030, down from 50 cents in 2010. Commercial costs need to fall from 39 cents in 2010 to 4 cents by 2030, while utility-scale solar costs need to decrease from 27 cents last decade to 2 cents by 2030.
To slash residential and commercial costs and improve penetration, the government has plans for generous investments and production tax credits, clean energy tax credits, and direct pay tax incentives to boost private capital investment. The focus will also be on enabling transmission and storage infrastructure, to bring solar power rapidly to new regions of the country. The government is also committed to fighting energy inequalities, by bringing accessible solar programs, including community solar, within the reach of lower and middle-income Americans across the country. The long-term sustainability of solar power is also part of the vision, with several states implementing legislation to incentivize and encourage the recycling of used solar panels and create the necessary recycling ecosystem for the future.
In a post-pandemic world hit by income insecurity, the benefits of a booming solar industry may extend well beyond the environment. Companies like Solar Energy Partners are focusing on the Central Valley of California and now operate in Nevada, Colorado, Florida, and Texas in the span of 2020 to increase the demand for solar. The government’s policies are bound to expand and the solar revolution is expected to create over 1.5 million new local jobs and support vast new industries.