Mega-What? An Explanation Of Solar Energy Capacity In America
Recent Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) data analyzing the U.S. solar industry shows how powerful solar energy generation in America is fast becoming.
A total of 14,762 megawatts (MW) of solar electric capacity was installed in the U.S during last year (2016). This equates to a 97 percent increase from 2015, bringing the cumulative solar electric capacity operations to 42,000 MW, or enough solar to power more than 8.3 million average American homes!
To put this into perspective, let us first give an explanation of power measurements:
Power is measured in watts (W). 1,000 watts is equal to 1 kilowatt (kW).
The way you are charged for power from your local utility is a total measurement of the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) you use in a given month (the difference between a kW and a kWh is simply the hour long duration factor).
To further illustrate, imagine burning a 1,000 watt light bulb for 1 hour – This is the same as 1 kWh.
Household Power Consumption In America
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2013 the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,908 kWh, an average of 909 kWh per month. Louisiana had the highest annual consumption at 15,270 kWh, and Hawaii had the lowest at 6,176 kWh.
1,000 watts burning for a period of 1 hour is equal to 1 kWh.
1 million watts is equal to 1 megawatt (MW), and 1 billion watts is equal to 1 gigawatt (GW), or 1,000 MW.
The SEIA is predicting that 20,000 MW of new solar capacity will come online over the next two years, doubling the country’s existing solar capacity. By the end of 2021 over 100 GW of solar will be installed in America – 100 BILLION WATTS! That’s a lot of clean energy!
There are now more than 190,000 solar workers in the U.S. and it is estimated that in 2017 a new solar project will be installed every 84 seconds!
What Is Driving Solar Energy Installations?
Much of this HUGE growth can be attributed to the declining cost of solar panels, solar system components, and solar labor. The cost of solar panels dropped 99% from 1977 to now, from over $76/W (dollars per watt) to just 61 cents/W in 2014.
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Another key driver of solar adoption comes from power utilities. Two things involving power companies have been happening over time:
First, power rates (the cost you are charged per kWh from the utility) have been increasing. EIA data from January 2001 shows the average retail price of electricity at 6.75 cents per kWh.
This has gone up to as high as 10.65 cents per kWh in July 2008, while the most recent data available from February 2014 lists the price at 10.34 cents per kWh.
As the cost per kWh of power increases, monthly power bills get more expensive. For example, yearly power costs based on the average annual usage of 10,908 kWh per year cost just $736.29 in 2001, $1,1161.70 in 2008, and up to $1,127.89 in 2014 – a 53% increase from 2001!
The rising cost of power is driving more Americans to alternative measures, like producing their own power with solar. It’s no wonder that some of the biggest U.S. corporations like Walmart, IKEA and Macy’s, are all going solar!
Producing your own power with solar is cheaper than continuing to buy it from the local electric utility!
The second thing that has been happening with local power companies that is driving more solar energy adoption is that they are incentivizing customers to go solar – That is, they are paying their customers (like you) to install solar panels!
It may sound crazy, but it is actually cheaper for the power utility if 1,000 people each install a 10 kW rooftop solar energy system (total capacity of 10 MW) than it is for them to build a 10 MW power plant to deliver power to those same 1,000 households.
Power companies have traditionally had to build more power plants over time to keep up with rising demand. But when you install solar panels to deliver power to your house, you save the power company a fraction of the power from a new power plant that would have been built to deliver power to you.
Local utilities like Austin Energy, CPS Energy, and Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative are all offering rebates to cover part of the cost of going solar for homeowners in their service territories. In fact, the CPS Energy solar rebate program is one of the best in the nation, offering up to $25,000 dollars towards the cost of a solar installation! Click to read more about Solar Rebates and Incentives available in Texas.
So there you have it! A solar power revolution is taking part all across America, and many of us in Texas are lucky enough to live in areas where the local power company will pay US to go solar! Imagine that!
$0 Down Solar Installations With Alba Energy
Alba Energy is currently offering $0 Down solar financing arrangements, making it possible for virtually everyone to save with solar. This offer, when used in conjunction with the available utility rebates & tax incentives mentioned above, can enable homeowners in Texas to spend less on their total power costs each month and save a substantial amount of money over time.