Where in the world is Solar Suitable?
Consider this – Germany is the global leader in installed solar capacity, yet, when you measure the level of solar energy hitting the earth’s surface on an annual basis, Germany has a very similar solar resource to that of Alaska. The bottom line is that solar works in every state, regardless of temperature.
A map of the relative direct solar-energy availablity in the United States and Germany. Red = highest, purple = lowest. (NREL)
Okay, so we have a fair amount of solar energy landing in our region, but it’s expensive to install solar panels is what I have heard.
Maybe it used to be expensive, but today solar power is becoming significantly cheaper. The cost of solar panels has dropped 99% since the 1970s. The total installed costs for solar PV at the residential level has followed and prices fell by over 50% between 2009 and 2014 alone. Declining prices has resulted in impressive growth rates. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Solar Market Insight Report 2014 Q4:
- Installations of solar PV in the US were the highest ever in 2014 – up 30 percent over 2013.
- 12 times as much solar was installed in 2013 as in 2009.
- More than one-third of all cumulative operating PV capacity in the US came on-line in 2014.
- The most rapid growth segment forecasted in 2015 is in the residential market.
The chart below shows the amount of solar PV installed each year in the US – as you can see, it’s been exponential. To put this in perspective, 12,000 Mega Watts installed in 2013 is enough to power about 2 million homes.
Solar is the fastest growing energy generation technology in the U.S., growing even faster than wind power or natural gas. Nationally, rooftop solar PV (photovoltaic) systems are becoming more mainstream and, based on the amount of investments being made by homeowners, businesses and even utility companies, solar is more than a short-term trend.
With the recent advent of home batteries able to store power generated from rooftop solar panels and operate household appliances, the future potential of solar is even more interesting.