With each passing year, the solar energy industry in the United States has experienced what routinely is being called remarkable growth. One of the driving factors behind this rapid growth is that the cost associated with solar energy has dropped by almost 70 percent over the course of the past decade.
At this juncture of the 21st century, residential and other types of solar energy really has entered the mainstream. An ever increasing number of homeowners can be found asking themselves how solar energy can save them money.
In addition to cost issues, solar energy is becoming more widely utilized due to the increase in the number of people more focused on how the operation of their homes impacts the environment. These individuals are turning towards green energy options in increasing numbers with each passing year.
With all of this in mind, there are some trends worth considering in regard to solar energy. This 2018 solar energy update provides a look at some of these important trends associated with solar energy in the United States.
The Cost of Solar Energy
As of this time, solar energy is not only the most abundant energy resource on the plant, it has become the cheapest. As of December 2016, the cost of constructing and installing new solar electricity generation systems of all types dripped to $1.65 per watt. This narrowly beats out wind energy and outpaces fossil fuel options.
The most notable turning point of solar energy outpacing fossil fuel occurred in the heart of the Middle East and in an emirate that became wealthy because of oil. In 2016, a solar energy provides in Dubai offered electricity for sale at $0.029 cents per kilowatt hour. This price set a world record for solar as well as all other types of energy sources.
As of this moment in history there are over 89 Petawatts (PW) of potential solar energy production available around the globe. This is the reason why solar energy is not considered the world’s most abundant and available source of power.
Solar Energy Growth in the United States
When considering residential, commercial, and industrial solar energy systems, over 1 million had been installed in the United States at the end of 2016. That number is expected to double at the end of 2018 or early in 2019. This makes solar energy the fastest growing energy resource in the United States.
Similar growth is being seen around the world. The end results is that solar energy is also the fastest growing energy resources internationally as well.
Solar Panel Cost and Efficiency
The efficiency of solar panels continues to increase. At the same time, the costs associated with solar panels drops.
About seven years ago, the most efficient solar panel on the market was 17.8 percent. By the end of 2017, homeowners were able to install solar panels in the 20 to 23 percent efficiency range. As an aside, these higher efficiency panels are not at the high end of the cost scale. Rather, they are moderately priced panels — and priced at a point that is notable lower than what panels costs even a few years ago.
Falling Installation Costs
Another important trend associated with solar energy in the United States involves installation costs. About a decade ago, the costs of installing a solar system was about $8 a watt. As of this time, that cost has fallen to less than $3 per watt. This is drop in the installation price that is seen everywhere in the United States.
Vehicles and Solar Power
Aircraft are now capable of flying around the globe, using only solar energy. Wider use of solar powered trains is on the horizon. The same holds true for solar powered cars.
Shared and Community Solar Powered
A movement that became more definite in 2017 was towards the concept of shared solar or community solar power. This is a concept whereby a solar farm is established the serves the energy needs of a specific community. The community served in this manner could be something as small as a neighborhood to thousands of people living in the came city or town. The community comes together and invests in this type of solar farm, as opposed to investing in the placement of solar panels on their individual residences.
Community solar power differs from large, traditional solar farms. Traditional solar farms generate power to pass into the broader electricity grid and is not necessarily targeted for a specific community. This type of system is most popular in four states at this time: California, Colorado, Minnesota, and Massachusetts.