Within the energy industry, we often write in megawatts (1 megawatt = 1,000,000 watts) and gigawatts (1 gigawatt = 1,000,000,000 watts). Clearly, that makes more sense when writing about such large amounts of power. However, to the average Joe and Josephine, megawatts and gigawatts don’t make much sense — watts and kilowatts are much more familiar. So, while cheering about the huge US solar power capacity milestone we just crossed, I figured it would make more sense to most of you if I put the figure in watts.
The US is just the fourth country to pass the 10,000,000,000-watt (10-gigawatt) solar power capacity milestone. Can you guess the first three countries that did so? While you think about it, here’s a map and a chart of US solar power capacity by region:
OK, do you have your answers ready for checking? The first three countries to hit the 10-gigawatt milestone were: Germany, Italy, and China.
From Solarbuzz, the market research firm that announced this big US solar power capacity milestone in its North America PV Market Quarterly report: “Solar PV has been one of the fastest growing energy sources in the US over the past six years, with a compound annual growth rate of over 50% since 2007. Cumulative solar PV installations are forecast to increase an additional 80% over the next 18 months, surpassing 17 GW by the end of 2014.”
US Solar Power Prices Have Fallen Off A Cliff
Solarbuzz also made note of a point we have written about extensively here on Cost of Solar: the cost of solar has fallen tremendously in the past few years. It has fallen so much, that most of you probably think it’s a few times higher (or even 100 times higher) than it actually is. Here’s a comment from Solarbuzz on this:
“The rapid uptake of solar PV in the US is being driven by the dramatic solar system price declines observed since 2011. Average installed system prices in the US have declined from around $6/watt two years ago to approximately $4.25/watt for residential installations and $3/watt for large utility-scale PV projects today.”
US Solar Power Capacity Has Skyrocketed At The Same Time
Naturally, the massive drop in solar panel prices has coincided with massive solar power growth. It’s actually a reinforcing feedback loop of solar goodness — solar panel prices drop, which causes more people to go solar, which results in economies of scale for solar power companies, which results in further cost and price drops, etc. It’s an exciting time.
Already, solar panels cost so little that the average homeowner who goes solar saves over $20,000 over 20 years. And note that solar panels actually tend to last for 30 or even 40+ years! Of course, that means that many homeowners who go solar won’t actually outlive their solar panel systems, but they can still pass on that gift to their kids or grandkids.
It’s time to do the obvious. It’s time to take advantage of the wonderful solar energy potential we are gifted with — it dwarfs the potential from any other energy source (click the link above for details on that). And the advantages of solar power dwarf the cost of solar to such a large extent that it would be insane to not go solar when gifted with the opportunity to do so.
Clearly, people are picking up on this. I’m happy to see that US solar power capacity has grown so fast that we are the fourth country to pass the 10-gigawatt milestone. However, I hope installations increase enough that we are the first country to pass the 50-gigawatt and 100-gigawatt milestones!
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