SEIA calls its shot: In the next decade, solar can hit 20 percent of all electricity generation


The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is turning its attention to the 2020s, officially designating the upcoming decade The Solar+ Decade. More than a moniker, SEIA is coupling the name with policy objectives and benchmarks in a roadmap for solar to hit 20 percent of all electricity generation by 2030.

That number is 2.5 percent today, so there is work to do, and key to getting there is that “+” in Solar+. SEIA is emphasizing that to achieve this goal, solar, wind and storage must work together to transform a complex and interrelated world of markets, customers and electricity systems.

“It is incumbent upon us to create a shared clean energy vision,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “It won’t be just the Solar Decade, but the Solar+ Decade where Solar + Storage, Solar + Grid Modernization, Solar + Wind, and Solar+ Overwhelming Public Support combine to define our nation’s clean energy future,” she said.

Over the next 10 years, the Solar+ Decade will be about collaboration and building the partnerships and expertise needed to overcome systemic challenges preventing the widescale adoption of solar.

Don’t miss our Solar + Storage issue in July — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

To meaningfully address climate change and expand the benefits that low-priced clean energy brings to the economy, solar must account for a much larger share of U.S. electricity. Increasing solar generation from 2.5 percent today to 20 percent by 2030 could add more than $345 billion into the U.S. economy and grow the workforce to 600,000 solar professionals, from nearly 250,000 today.

“The goal is bold but achievable,” Hopper said. “If we hit 20 percent solar by 2030, we will prove that solving the climate challenge won’t hurt the economy, but instead will be one of the greatest economic growth opportunities in decades,” she said.

Indeed, this effort isn’t without its challenges. To get there, the industry must reach an average annual growth rate of 18 percent and cost reductions across all market segments by nearly 50 percent. The industry will need to install an average of 39 gigawatts (GW) each year throughout the 2020s, including 77 GW in 2030 alone.

On May 15, Hopper testified before the House Science, Space, and Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy where she outlined the technical and market challenges the industry needs to overcome. These challenges and priority research areas include:

  • Growing a more diverse workforce which will require federal job training.
  • Cutting soft costs and streamlining permitting and interconnection processes.
  • Prioritizing the security and resilience of the grid by easing grid integration and creating cyber secure technologies.
  • Supporting advanced manufacturing and later stage demonstration and deployment projects that enable the scale up of energy storage.

“The 2020s will be the decade where we take action and work with our partners to solve our most pressing climate problems,” said Hopper said. “The stakes have never been higher as we take our first steps into the Solar+ Decade.”

— Solar Builder magazine

The U.S. surpasses 2 million solar installations (which will double by 2023)

The U.S. is now home to more than 2 million solar PV installations, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The mark comes just three years after the industry completed its 1 millionth installation, a feat that took 40 years to accomplish.

“The rapid growth in the solar industry has completely reshaped the energy conversation in this country,” said Abigail Ross-Hopper, SEIA president and CEO. “This $17 billion industry is on track to double again in five years, and we believe that the 2020s will be the decade that solar becomes the dominant new form of energy generation.”

Wood Mac SEIA 2 million solar installs chart

Wood Mackenzie forecasts that there will be 3 million installations in 2021 and 4 million in 2023, continuing the swift rise of solar.

California represented 51 percent of the first million installations but accounted for 43 percent of the second million. This is in large part due to a growing residential sector that is rapidly diversifying across state markets. South Carolina, for instance, was an emerging market in 2016 with 1,160 cumulative installations. Today, the state is home to more than 18,000 solar systems and is expected to add 22,000 systems over the next five years.

Don’t miss our Solar + Storage issue in July — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

Other fast-growing states over the last three years include Texas, Utah, Florida, Rhode Island, and Maryland, which combined have grown from around 50,000 installations to more than 200,000. Looking ahead, Illinois will see cumulative installations increase from 4,000 today to nearly 100,000 by 2024. While California will continue to lead the nation in installations, the remaining top 10 state markets will see faster growth. Nearly 750,000 installations are expected in those markets over the next 5 years, compared to 500,000 installations over the last 5 years.

“According to our latest forecasts, by 2024, there will be on average, one solar installation per minute,” said Michelle Davis, Senior Solar Analyst with Wood Mackenzie. “That’s up from one installation every 10 minutes in 2010.”

“Our nation is harnessing homegrown sunshine at scale to lower electric bills, create jobs, reduce harmful pollution, and build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar. “This remarkable progress is a true American success story made possible by customers, workers, policymakers, advocates and innovators. It shows us both what’s possible and how much farther we can go when it comes to an urgent transition to clean energy.”

Today, the 2 million residential, commercial and utility-scale solar installations produce enough electricity each year to power more than 12 million American homes. By 2024, 2.5 percent of all U.S. homes will have a solar installation. The total amount of solar generating capacity that goes along with the 2 million solar installations has now eclipsed 70 gigawatts.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar industry groups push for more diversity with best practices guide, #DiversityChallenge


Solar companies are doing a better job of tracking employee demographics and generally provide positive work environments for their employees, but senior leadership in the industry lacks diversity and gaps remain in wages and job satisfaction, according to a comprehensive study by The Solar Foundation, in partnership with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The two groups also just released a diversity and inclusion best practices guide to help companies and organizations within and beyond the solar industry build diversity and inclusion programs.

The reports were released during an event at the National Press Club introducing SEIA’s #DiversityChallenge. The challenge, issued in coordination with many of Washington’s energy trade associations, asks organizations to be active on social media by sharing their efforts to improve diversity and inclusion, sign on to the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge, attend SEIA’s #DiversityChallenge event (today), and finally, mount a sustained effort to address diversity & inclusion at their company and in their industries.

“I felt it was important to make this a public issue — to challenge others to stand up and account for the work they are doing,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “As leaders, we have a responsibility to create cultural change and address the systemic forces that have allowed discrimination to fester. We need to take account of our own actions and ask ourselves, are we doing enough? It’s imperative that we take proactive steps to advance these issues, because it isn’t going to happen on its own.”

The new publications update and expand on earlier reports to show where the solar industry stands on diversity and inclusion, and to offer ideas for improvement.

Solar industry diversity study

The U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019 provides in-depth data on wages and career development for women and people of color in the solar industry. It is a follow up to an initial report released by The Solar Foundation in 2017. The study, based on a statistical survey of solar employers and another survey of employees, found the industry still has more work ahead to meet its commitments to diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Some of the key findings include:

• Among all senior executives reported by solar firms, 88% are white and 80% are men.
• Women in solar make 74 cents on the dollar compared to men. The median wage reported for men was $29.19, while for women it was $21.62. Moreover, 52% of men feel they have successfully moved up the career ladder, compared to only 37% of women.
• Solar companies tend to rely on personal or professional networks in hiring, but this may limit their ability to recruit diverse candidates. Only 28% of Hispanic or Latino employees found their jobs through a referral or by word of mouth, compared to 49% of non-Hispanic employees. Only 28% of black or African American employees found their job in this way, compared to 44% of white employees.
• Just 36% of solar companies formally track employee demographics and diversity. However, this is an increase from the 2017 study, when only 27% of companies did so.
• The majority of solar employees surveyed reported a positive working environment. 73% of respondents agreed their firm cultivates a culture of respect, equity and positive recognition of differences.

Overall, the solar industry has more work to do in order to reflect the diversity of the overall population, a challenge that is shared with the wider energy industry. The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2018 found that women make up 26% of the solar workforce, black or African American workers comprised 8%, Hispanic or Latino workers represented 17%, and Asian workers comprised 9%.

“Diversity and inclusion are essential to making the solar industry as accessible as possible,” said Scott Wiater, President and CEO of Standard Solar. “While the industry is working hard toward expanding into all communities, studies like this highlight where the gaps are so we can do a better job on filling them. Over time, we hope that our industry workforce will be as diverse as our world, and studies like this will help us get there.”

Best Practices Guide

The Diversity Best Practices Guide for the Solar Industry offers suggestions for building and sustaining a diverse and inclusive culture, provides case studies on actions currently undertaken by leading solar organizations, and points out areas where organizations can examine their work practices and look for areas of improvement.

The Guide is organized into five key focus areas, and provides best practices and tactics for a variety of workforce-related topics, including outreach and recruitment, interviewing and hiring, retention, upward mobility, and cultural inclusivity. The Guide was developed in partnership with SEIA members and external experts in the Human Resources and diversity & inclusion field.

— Solar Builder magazine

Residential solar market growth driven by ‘diverse mix of national, regional installers’ in 2018

2018 US Solar Market report chart 1

The U.S. Solar Market Insight 2018 Year-in-Review Report from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) mostly showed the initial uncertainty / impact of the tariffs on utility-scale and non-residential solar and how the future is super bright going forward in general (doubling capacity in the next five years). But the big positive in 2018 came in the stabilization / maturation of the residential market.

While annual growth fell in both the non-residential and utility-scale solar sectors, residential solar growth stabilized in 2018 after the previous year’s contraction. After a year in which residential solar experienced 15 percent contraction, 2018 marked a year of rebound as the market grew by 7 percent. Q4 was the largest quarter for the residential solar segment in two years, a sign that the residential market is stabilizing. In total, 314,600 new residential PV systems were installed in 2018.

The U.S. residential solar market has now seen five consecutive quarters of modest growth, and the fourth quarter of 2018 was the largest quarter for residential solar in two years.

“After the residential solar freefall of 2017, growth in 2018 was driven by a more diverse mixture of national and regional installers than in previous years,” said Austin Perea, senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. “With a pivot toward more efficient sales channels, both national and regional installers exceeded expectations in California and Nevada, which drove the lion’s share of residential growth in 2018.”

Of the top 10 markets in 2017, six markets experienced annual contraction in 2018 while two experienced double-digit percentage growth. Meanwhile, a handful of states are leapfrogging developed markets. Texas and Florida, two states with generally low solar penetration, stood out in 2018, adding more capacity than some of the highest penetration states, like Maryland and Massachusetts, signaling new state-level leadership on residential solar development.

“In 2018, we saw a pivot away from legacy, incentive-driven markets and the emergence of low-penetration markets with limited third-party ownership options, good PV resources, and low electricity rates – a trend we expect to continue,” the report states.

The other standout note is the diminishing power of net metering rules to influence the market. Up till now, any changes to NEM or rate structures would have created “demand pull-in,” but despite anticipated changes to incentives and NEM in 2019-2020, the major Northeast markets collectively saw no growth in installation volumes.

“This suggests that while changes to NEM policy and other incentives have greatly impacted growth in years past, 2018 marks a year of market maturation. While strong NEM policy remains an essential foundation for rooftop solar adoption, future growth across legacy markets will require technology and business-model innovation to tap into new customer demographics.”

roof top reportDownload the new Residential Rooftop Report to heat up your solar sales

The Residential Rooftop Report for the first quarter of 2019 is now available for download. The theme is “Heating Up Sales,” and we’ve teamed up with report sponsor Aurora Solar to examine ways for residential solar installation companies to lower customer acquisition costs, close more leads and overall run a more streamlined, efficient local solar business. Just fill out the form below to access your free report.

— Solar Builder magazine

The U.S. solar industry survived the Trump tariffs. Here are five stats to prove it

2018 US solar market report chart 2

Here are the key numbers in the just released U.S. Solar Market Insight 2018 Year-in-Review Report from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

10.6 GW

This is the amount of solar PV capacity that came online in 2018 — the third year in a row of double-digit GWs installed. Cumulative operating solar photovoltaic capacity in the U.S. is now at 62.4 GW — about 75 times more than was installed at the end of 2008.

2 percent

This is the decrease of installed capacity from 2017, which is all attributable to the Trump tariffs. The forecast shows the market rebounding in the years ahead. Non-residential PV and utility-scale PV declined 8 and 7 percent, respectively.

14 percent

That’s how much the total installed PV capacity in the U.S. is expected to rise by in 2019, with annual installations reaching 15.8 GW in 2021.

13.2 GW

That’s how much utility-scale solar was signed for via power purchase agreements, pushing the contracted project pipeline to its highest point in the history of U.S. solar. The contracted pipeline peaked in Q3 2018 at 25.3 GW the highest in the history of U.S. solar.

15.8 GW

That’s the expected annual solar installation capacity in 2021, prior to the expiration of the residential federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and a drop in the commercial tax credit to 10 percent for projects not yet under construction. The total installed U.S. PV capacity will more than double over the next five years.

— Solar Builder magazine