Clean Power Explosive growth in solar power and demand (

Published on August 18th, 2014 | by Sandy Dechert


Explosive US Solar Power Growth & Jobs

August 18th, 2014 by  

It’s no secret to those who work in energy that the solar industry is among the fastest-growing power sectors in this country (often the fastest-growing one), as well as worldwide. And many people don’t realize it, but US solar power growth has a hugely positive impact on employment. In 2013 alone, the global solar industry expanded by 100%, amounting to 2.3 million jobs worldwide.

Explosive growth in solar power and demand (

Oanh Nguyen of The Refrigeration School, a fast-track climate control training program, has posted some very informative stats on US solar power growth, use, and demand on the school’s website. The infographic is up-to-date, clear, and almost startlingly appealing. Here are some highlights in text:

  • 20% US annual growth rate of solar
  • 2.3M solar jobs worldwide
  • 49% overall increase in US installations during 2013

Who’s fueling US solar power growth? Consumers, for sure. In California last year, the number of rooftop installations doubled the number made in the previous three decades. Government, including several federal branches and mainstream private corporations like Walmart, Kohl’s, and Staples, as well as innovators such as Apple and Google, have invested heavily in energy from the sun.

The costs of solar panels and photovoltaics have plummeted by about 50% in the past four years and are headed nowhere but down. The RS map shows California and Arizona as predictable state leaders, but also a couple of eye-openers in terms of solar capacity and growth.

The US solar power growth stats also include a comprehensive and detailed rundown on about 20 different solar career opportunities at several levels of experience. Jobs in the solar industry start at about $27,000 for those with minimal education and less than two years in the field. Basic training involves broad range of knowledge in electrical and mechanical technologies, along with heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration. These career paths are in heaviest demand:

  • Solar Installation Engineer
  • Solar Panel Sales
  • Solar Panel Maintenance
  • Solar Electrician
  • Large-scale Solar Project Designer

We’ve saved the best for last, of course. In addition to 20 other industry, government, and media sources, including, the Solar Energy Industries Association, and several large corporations, RS lists CleanTechnica among its information references.

Here’s the full infographic:


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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

  • Whoa, wait a minute. One of the infographics above suggests that New Jersey is the third leading state in cumulative solar capacity. I find this hard to believe as the state has so many cloudy days and no large-scale solar farms. California, Arizona, Nevada I do believe that not tiny, little New Jersey.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Capacity. Name plate numbers. NJ has had an aggressive solar program.

      NJ is in Zone 5, so about 4.2 average solar hours per day over a year. That knocks it down the list in terms of solar production.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Here’s a better version of the map – includes the legend.

  • drevney

    I can’t find the simplest of figures: what is the share of solar electricity in the total produced electricity.

    • fevasu

      less than 0.5% in 2014

      • drevney

        US? EU? global?

        • fevasu

          US, infact it is just over 0.31% and won’t go over 3% at this rate even by 2030

          • CsabaU

            Globally it has been a 10 fold increase the last 6 years.
            The question is: Will in be a 10 fold increase the next 6 years due to the drop in price, see the figure in the same reference. If so solar power will have a significant impact, so each figure for the coming years will be very interesting.

          • cmeyer

            The 0.31% is for utility scale projects alone – doesn’t count residential rooftop or perhaps even what other companies are doing (IKEA etc.). Also, the growth in solar is exponential, not linear. Regardless, at this moment solar is still a pretty small slice of the total energy pie but I suspect your estimate of 3% by 2030 is going to be way low!

          • Bob_Wallace

            0.34% for the first five months of 2014.


            That number contains a rough estimate of rooftop/end-user solar.

            Solar is taking off, it’s hard to estimate where the curve will change from exponential to straight line. As prices continue to drop we should expect installation rates to increase.

            Between now and 2030 we are going to see a lot of coal and nuclear plants closing. (They’re getting old and wearing out.) Desire to fight climate change should increase. Solar should be fighting wind for the #1 cheapest way to bring new capacity to the grid (it may have already won that position well before 2030).

            There are a number of forces driving solar installation rates. 3% is likely a very, very low estimate.

          • fevasu

            way too optimistic curve bro!, as above commenter has shown the EIA projection which shows solar saturation at 20 GW. Most optimistic would be about 40 GW which would be around 6-8% of total electricity in 2030. If oil companies become extinct today (or at least their lobby) it might go upto 10% then again that would be a miracle on the banks of Mississippi.

          • jeffhre

            What is the number that is way too optimistic?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Do a quick search of Cleantechnica and EIA. Read the four or so articles about EIA predictions.

            The EIA is the Harold Camping of energy forecasting.

            Are you aware that China installed 12 GW of solar in 2013 and is heading for 14 GW in 2014? China’s doing a quarter of 60 in two years and we couldn’t do more than 60 in 16?

            Solar saturation at 20%? Somewhere around 20% solar, perhaps a bit lower, we will need to start adding storage. That’s expected. But EVs plugged during the day may let that number go far higher. Jury is out on that number.

          • fevasu

            So EIA is bought by Oil companies? damn, I thought I was being paranoid, alarmist and semi-serious. FuckTheGovt and this oil-military industrial complex.

          • jeffhre

            And the EIA faked the Apollo missions in AZ!

            Alternatively…their assumptions are quite conservative, upon which their forward scenario adds the projected end of subsidies for renewable energy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Oil companies certainly don’t own the EIA. But there is something very amiss in the office that does projections. And there has been for some time.

            Is the office run by some old timers who are out of touch? By some very anti-renewable energy people?

            Is no one higher up in the organization paying attention to how flawed their projections continue to be?

            Is the office under pressure from Congress members from fossil fuel states?

            I don’t know the answer. But it’s clear that there is something going on that’s just not right.

          • just_jim

            A large part of it is in the assumptions it works with.

            Present law. The subsidies for fossil fuels are written into the tax code, and therefore assumed to continue indefinitely. Subsidies for renewables have an expiration date, and are assumed to expire.

            They are not assuming that historical cost reductions in renewables will continue and probably are using old and therefore higher than current costs. They are also probably not assuming increases in fossil fuel costs.

            Even with all that, there projections seem way low.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yeah, they sent me a letter that explained it more or less that way.

            Problem is, the 30% subsidy goes away in a couple of years and they assume solar grinds to a halt.

            But just a short number of years back the cost of subsidized solar was more than the current cost of unsubsidized solar.

            The average price of non-subsidized utility scale solar 1st quarter, 2014 was $1.85/watt. We don’t have to look back far to find the unsubsidized price to be $2.64 or higher ($2.64 – 30% subsidy = $1.85)

            The non-subsidized price of utility solar was $2.27/W at the end of 2012.

            Why would people install less in 2017 than they did in ‘2010’ if the 2017 cost is less?

            This simply is not clear thinking.

          • JamesWimberley

            I can’t find your 3% in 2030 on the Wikipedia page at all. Can you give us a citation?
            If you are referring to the EIA projections, they are a laughing stock.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s what the EIA thinks the growth of solar will look like between now and 2040.

            The EIA has clearly experienced a break with reality.

          • jeffhre

            So, in 2030 the US will have as much solar in the aggregate as California actually has,




          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m starting to think that Bush sold the EIA prediction office to Murdoch.

            Or at least staffed it with Cheney moles.

          • Guest
          • fevasu

            yup EIA projection, I can’t find a page for that. Can you explain the “laughing stock” bit? Solar adoption in US is beyond slow it is glacial, US will continue as the largest polluter in the world. Texas has legislation against Solar incentives, some Northern states are being lobbied hard by oil companies to impose “surcharge” on solar

          • jeffhre

            Solar has essentially gone at a “glacial scale” from 0 to GW’s in 30 months.

          • fevasu

            Look in terms of % grid capacity. It is like comparing your swimming pool to Lake Superior

          • Bob_Wallace

            Look at how technology transitions happen. Things start slow, build momentum, and then take off.

            Let’s look at some graphs….

            At one point in time Lake Superior was smaller than your swimming pool. Solar panel prices have fallen from $100/watt to about 50 cents/watt over the last 30 years. Solar has become affordable, which was needed for solar to take off. And solar is taking off.

          • jeffhre

            Perhaps it is more like comparing a 132 year history of fossil fuel generation (with it’s closure in cities and movement to outlying generation paid for by government funds) to about 30 months of solar scaling up.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Good point.

            It took nuclear from 1965 to 1995 to grow from a tiny presence on the grid to 19%.

            That’s about 0.6% a year over nuclear’s growth period.

            Wind grabbed 0.67% of the total (larger than 1960s) grid supply in 2013. Solar grabbed only 0.12% but, as you say, about 30 months of starting to scale.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s the page for the EIA’s future forecast of energy prices.


            Note that they predict that onshore wind will have a LCOE of 8.0 cents in 2019.

            Wind sold (non-subsidized price) for roughly 5.5 cents in 2011 and 2012. We have yet to be confirmed information that wind solar (non-subsidized price ) for roughly 3.5 cents in 2013.

            Now, ‘splain this. How do we go from less than 5 cents in 2013/14 to 8 cents in 2019?

            The EIA had plenty of time to look at the 2011 and 2012 numbers (they came from another branch of the DOE – the NREL – and were public). Why would anyone not smoking crack predict wind costs to double when the entire industry is busy cutting costs?

            Oh, PV solar. 13 cents in 2019. 7 to 9 cents in 2013.

            The EIA’s history numbers seem legit. Their predictions are from a different reality.

          • Larry

            Please give the citizens of these Northern states a bit of credit. Oil companies can lobby (and maybe buy a few politicans) and pollute the airwaves with bullshit, but people control the ballot box and aren’t that stupid in most cases. The Koch Bros. are now a household word-similar to toilets.

    • Will E

      share of solar in my house.
      Solar panels on the roof produce 100 % and made my house all electric and pay zero energy bill. including air to water heat pump for heating and warm water.
      next is Tesla EV car and solar on the garage.
      fossil free will make me 6000 euros a year locally produced income.
      is in 10 year 60000 euros.
      how many dollars is that for YOU.

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