Key takeaways


n renewables, solar power has emerged as a front-runner. The sun, a gargantuan celestial reactor, has been the focus of scientific efforts to harness its inexhaustible energy. Among the nations racing to capitalize on this bounty, America has made significant strides, becoming a global solar titan.

History of Photovoltaics in the U.S.

Early Developments in America’s PV Journey

US solar journey began around one hundred and fifty years ago when inventor Clarence Kemp patented the first solar water heater. In spite of its relative primitiveness, Kemp's invention set the stage for a sun-powered future.

Flash forward to 1954, the birth year of the first photovoltaic cell, a device that converts light into usable energy. Bell Labs in New Jersey made history by unveiling a PV cell that, despite its 6% efficiency, was a giant leap for solar energy.

Milestones and Key Events

The 1973 oil embargo was a major catalyst for solar energy in the United States. It underscored the limitations of fossil fuels, driving a shift towards renewable energy sources. In 1980, the first major PV plant boasting a capacity of 1 megawatt was established in California, signaling the country's embrace of solar power.

Current Solar Energy Situation in America

Total PV Capacity

Today the US is truly a global powerhouse. The solar capacity in the US is almost 150 gigawatts, placing it second globally, a testament to the country's robust renewable energy strategy.

Geographic Distribution of Photovoltaics

Solar Energy Champions

California, Texas, and Florida lead the US solar power revolution, collectively generating over 70 GW. The abundant sunshine and supportive government policies in these states provide the perfect canvas for the solar industry to thrive.

Notable PV Projects and Initiatives

Among the plethora of solar installations, the Solar Star project in California shines the brightest. Armed with 1.7 million PV units, this 579 MW photovoltaic farm can light up around 255,000 homes each year.

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National Clean Energy Targets

Federal Targets and Initiatives

The US government remains committed to championing renewable energy. Federal programs, including the Solar Investment Tax Credit, and other financing options, have been instrumental in making solar installations affordable for homeowners and commercial entities alike.

State-Level Targets and Policies

At the state level, the commitment to renewable fuels is equally impressive. Twenty-two states, including clean energy champions like Texas and California, have outlined goals to achieve 100% clean energy within 30 years. These ambitious targets underline the growing shift toward renewable energy.

Solar Energy Prices and Affordability

US solar PPA prices up 15% year on year in 2023
US solar PPA prices up 15% year on year in 2023

Overview of PV Panel Prices

Solar energy, once a pricey investment, has now become an increasingly affordable option. In just ten years, solar installation prices have plummeted by over 30%, signaling a paradigm shift that enables more households to embrace solar energy.

Government Incentives: Role in PV Growth

In terms of financial support, initiatives such as the ITC, which provides a 30% tax credit for PV system costs, and net metering policies that allow solar system owners to sell excess power back to the grid, have been pivotal in promoting solar adoption.

The fierce competition in the market also forced solar companies to find new ways to attract customers. That resulted in offers like price match guarantee, zero down payment financing options, and company-specific grants and credits, which play a crucial role in our solar journey.

Interesting Facts about PV Energy in America

  1. Are solar panels actually environmentally friendly? Even more, than most people think. More than 90% of the materials can be recycled and reused in the future.
  1. More than half of Americans would be happy to switch to solar energy if the payback period was 5 years or less. In order to make that happen, panels’ efficiency has to increase, and the prices have to decrease so that the switch to solar could be even more cost-effective.
  1. A solar system actually increases your property resell value by 4.1% when compared to similar houses with no PV units.
  1. Photovoltaics are not only a way to source energy in a more environmentally-friendly way, but it is also a significant contributor to job creation. In fact, more than 255,000 people are employed within the industry.
  1. We always talk about reducing CO2 emissions, but how about some numbers? Yearly, a massive amount of 120 billion pounds of CO2 are avoided thanks to solar energy.

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Final Thoughts

From humble beginnings with Clarence Kemp's solar water heater, the United States' solar journey has been one of continual growth and evolution. Today, with an installed capacity close to 150 GW, the country stands as a global solar energy leader. As advancements continue and government support remains robust, the future of solar energy seems poised to shine ever brighter.


Key takeaways

Renewables, and solar power in particular, have surged in popularity as people become more environmentally conscious. America, in particular, has made significant strides in solar energy, becoming a global leader. Here's a breakdown of the key points:

  • History: The US solar journey began about 150 years ago with Clarence Kemp's solar water heater. In 1954, Bell Labs unveiled the first photovoltaic cell, marking a significant milestone.
  • Milestones: The 1973 oil embargo highlighted the need for renewable energy, leading to a shift towards solar power. In 1980, the first major PV plant was established in California.
  • Current Situation: The US has almost 150 gigawatts of solar capacity, ranking second globally. States like California, Texas, and Florida lead in solar power generation.
  • Projects: The Solar Star project in California is a standout, with 1.7 million PV units and a capacity of 579 MW.
  • Targets and Initiatives: Federal programs like the Solar Investment Tax Credit and state-level initiatives aim to promote renewable energy. Twenty-two states have set goals for 100% clean energy.
  • Prices and Affordability: Solar installation prices have dropped over 30% in the past decade, making solar energy more affordable. Government incentives like the ITC and net metering have played a crucial role in this.
  • Interesting Facts: Solar panels are highly recyclable, and over 90% of their materials can be reused. Solar energy can increase property resale value by 4.1% and has created over 255,000 jobs in the US.
  • Final Thoughts: From Kemp's solar water heater to today's 150 GW capacity, the US has seen remarkable growth in solar energy. With ongoing advancements and strong government support, the future of solar energy looks promising.
Jul 23, 2023
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