Solar Energy in the U.S.

High Growth Rates for Solar Energy

Solar energy is gaining more and more importance in the U.S. energy market. 10.6 GW of new solar capacity was installed in the U.S. in 2017, bringing the total to over 53 GW. Taking all figures of the last decade into consideration, solar energy experienced an annual growth rate of 59%.  



PV continues to be the largest component of solar market growth. States in the West and Southwest, and to some extent on the East Coast, provide German companies with attractive markets for investment and sales. The Midwest is gaining importance for the solar industry as well, for example Illinois and Minnesota.

Solar power’s enormous potential in the U.S. is due to opportune conditions such as high levels of solar radiation and a pressing need for investment in energy infrastructure.

The federal and state governments have created attractive financial incentives to continue the trend of growth, most significantly the Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Sinking costs for PV equipment and installation are making solar power increasingly cost-effective. Since 2010 the costs for solar projects have dropped by 70%. By the end of 2017, 27 out of the 50 states had reached grid parity for residential installations.  Industry experts anticipate the ‘solar revolution’ to continue into at least 2023. The strong growth rates are seen in residential installations, commercial arrays, and utility scale solar projects alike.

Photovoltaic Solar Resources in the U.S.

Source: NREL

Important Market Data, Trends, and Developments

  • The cumulative capacity of Solar-PV amounts to over 53 GW (as of Q4 2017).
  • Solar power accounted for almost 2% of total US electric generation in 2017.
  • 100 GW of additional capacity are expected to be built by 2021.
  • Utility-scale purchase power agreements were signed at rates as low as $28 - $45/MWh in 2017.
  • The solar industry employs over 250,000 Americans. This figure is expected to increase by 170,000 within the next 4 years.
Source: GTM Research, SEIA, 2018, https://www.seia.org/solar-industry-research-data

Market Opportunities for German Companies

  • The Solar Energy Industries Association expects solar capacity to grow by 100 GW until 2021. Germany is known as a land of solar pioneers in the U.S., and German solar companies have a strong reputation for intelligent designs and high quality products. Reference projects in the U.S. are often a requirement for successful market entry. Collaboration with local research institutions can be very helpful in this regard.
  • The market offers opportunities for manufacturers of various installation components. This includes mounting systems that are compatible with American roofs, inverters, and tracking systems. Demand is also rising for battery storage systems, especially for off-grid applications.
  • Providers of integrated solutions, such as building-integrated modules or solutions for grid integration, have many market opportunities. The market is also attractive for companies offering system certification and long-term performance measurements.

Organizations & Links

  • The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) headquartered in Washington, DC, is the leading national association for solar energy in the US. SEIA is the organizer of the annual Solar Power International conference and regularly publishes important industry figures.
  • The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA)  brings electric utilities and solar companies under one roof. SEPA functions as the co-organizer of the annual Solar Power International conference.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) manages numerous research programs for renewable energies. It also maintains the so-called DSIRE database containing all support programs for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • The DOE also oversees the Energy Information Administration which collects statistics on US energy production.

Last updated: June 2018.

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Corinna Jess

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Chicago

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