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Solar Industry in 2009: 17,000 More Jobs, 37% Increase in Capacity, Major Drop in Costs


Despite the economic recession, the solar industry grew significantly in 2009. The solar industry added 17,000 jobs to the US economy in 2009. Installed solar capacity grew by approximately 37%. And we saw a serious drop in the cost of solar. (more info and graphs below)

46,000 jobs are supported by the solar industry now, but that number is expected to climb to over 60,000 by the end of 2010.

The Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA) released the 2009 US Solar Industry Year in Review this week.

In addition to the above, the industry brought in $1.4 billion in new venture capital investments in 2009. SEIA writes, “For an industry that had a total U.S. volume of roughly $4 billion, this signals huge optimism about near-term growth.”

Prices for PV modules fell from $3.50-$4.00 a watt to $1.85-$2.25 a watt (40%) since mid-2008 and average installed capacity cost fell approximately 10% from 2008-2009. This is despite a large shift to more labor-intensive and thus more expensive residential installations.

441 MW worth of solar electric installations were installed in 2009. And installed solar capacity is now at 2,108 MW.

SEIA expects much more growth in residential and commercial rooftop installations in 2010. “PV is getting ready to go big. Residential and commercial rooftop installations are expected to remain strong and the utility-scale PV is expected to grow significantly, with more than 6,000 MW in announced projects in the pipeline. With the Treasury Grant Program set to expire at the end of the year, many in the solar industry wish to meet the start-construction deadline of December 31, 2010. Most industry analysts expect another year of growth in the PV industry.”

Concentrating solar power (CSP) also grew significantly with three new installations. 12 MW of installed capacity were added from CSP in 2009. Nonetheless, again, much more is expected in the near future.

PACE financing, state renewable energy standards and a variety of state-level incentives and policies were identified as critical drivers of the solar industry in 2009. States are likely to be a critical piece of the equation in 2010 as well. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) also helped significantly to move the industry along. Hopefully, comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation and solar-friendly executive orders will continue to give the solar industry a major boost. It’s about time that renewable energy like solar gets the same level of support as the coal and oil industry (or, really, it should get much more).

2009 shows a lot to be happy about. Hopefully, 2010 will be better.

Image Credits: SEIA

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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