Over the past decade, renewable energy has become a major topic of discussion throughout the country. While debates continue about net metering, tax credits, climate change, fossil fuels, renewable portfolio standards, and a myriad of other topics, one thing is certain: renewable energy (most recently solar energy) is here, and here to stay.
Since 2008, production from solar energy systems has increased over 650x in the United States. 2008 saw 76 GWh of solar energy produced, but in 2017, the amount of solar energy generated was 49,688 GWh.
For 2016, solar energy made up just over 1% of total energy produced in the United States. However, in every year since 2013, solar energy has made up over 27% of new electricity generation added; wind and natural gas have contributed a great deal to new energy production while no new coal has been added since 2014.
What’s the main reason for all this growth in the solar industry?
Since 2010, prices have fallen over 60% for a residential solar photovoltaic system from over $7/W to around $3/W. The Investment Tax Credit provides a 30% tax credit for the entire price of the system; grants and other incentives can bring the payback period to under 5 years, for a system that lasts 30+ years. So as retail energy prices continue to climb, a solar energy system will provide electricity at a consistent price.
Another reason why renewable energy has grown exponentially over the last decade is because of the environmental impact, or lack thereof, that wind and solar have. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, coal and petroleum release over 2 lbs. of CO2 for every kWh of electricity that it produces, and natural gas releases almost 1 lb. per kWh. Solar, on the other hand, does not release any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Many large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Walmart, and Ikea are investing more and more in solar and wind energy. While utility and oil companies continue to try to discredit and hamper solar and other renewable energies growth, solar energy is poised to become the energy of the future.