In 1997, President Bill Clinton announced a goal of one million solar rooftops by 2010. The program fell flat until President George Bush increased the solar tax credit from the permanent 10% to a temporary 30% in 2005. Since the increase in the tax credit, the solar industry has gone from 17,000 employees to over 209,000 people in 2015. After almost twenty years, the solar industry has finally reached the goal of one million solar systems. The next million solar systems is predicted to only take two years.
In exponential growth, the first 1% marketshare is the hardest to achieve and with a million solar systems the solar industry finally achieved that important milestone. In 2016, the US solar industry is expected to provide over 50% of new electricity capacity and attract over $45 billion in new investment. Over 1,500 utility-scale installations account for the bulk of U.S. generation, with some recent projects producing power cheaper than any other source. Nearly 57,000 business and non-profits have installed solar, including many of America’s most recognizable companies such as Walmart, Apple, and GM — with average savings of 20% versus their local utility rates. Over 942,000 homeowners are producing their own-power, increasing family incomes while reducing their carbon footprint.
A combination of factors have allowed solar to scale from just a few installations in 1997 to over a million today. Installation costs have dropped by more than 70% since 2005, driven by competition and more efficient engineering and installation costs. The predictability of the long-term 30% federal investment tax credit first enacted in 2005 and extended through 2021 has played a big role is why the solar industry will attract $45 billion this year of private investment.
Given the proven ability of residential solar systems to decrease monthly electric bills, rooftop solar could help relieve the disproportionate energy burden and become a source of ongoing wealth creation in lower income communities. Lower income households face a range of barriers to going solar, including being more likely to be renters or live in multi-tenant buildings, lacking access to financing, and owning property with deferred maintenance issues. The solar industry has figured how to serve customers of all income levels with FICO scores down to 620.
It took 20yrs to reach 1 mil. US #solar systems. By 2018, there’ll be 2 mil! We’re #MillionSolarStrong and growing seia.us/mss2016
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