Fastest Growing Industry in the U.S. – Solar Energy

(Note: This piece is cross-posted from the White House Blog.)

The U.S. solar energy industry is booming.

In June, the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research released the U.S. Solar Market Insight: 1st Quarter 2011 report showing that in the last three years the U.S. solar industry has gone from a start-up to a major industry that is creating well-paying jobs and growing the economy in all 50 states.

Solar’s robust growth in the past years has been the result of a very favorable combination of new, innovative business models, affordability for consumers, rapidly decreasing manufacturing costs, and most importantly, a strong commitment from the Obama Administration and other policymakers in Washington.

In the first quarter of 2011, the solar industry installed 252 megawatts of new solar electric capacity, a 66 percent growth from the same time frame in 2010. There are now almost 3,000 megawatts of solar electric energy installed in the U.S., enough to power 600,000 homes. In the manufacturing sector, solar panel production jumped 31 percent.

And with the growth of the solar industry, thousands of jobs have been created. In fact, solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy source. According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, 93,000 Americans were employed in the U.S. solar industry in 2010 and that number is expected to grow between 25-50,000 this year.

The Obama Administration has taken solar energy initiatives to unprecedented levels and is leading the effort to win our clean energy future. In addition to creating American jobs, President Obama has put words to action through his call for the government to lead by example:

  • Just today, The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will install solar photovoltaic systems by summer 2012 at five VA medical centers in Oklahoma City; Temple, Texas; Amarillo, Texas; Loma Linda, Calif. and West Los Angeles. Prior to this announcement the VA has also awarded nearly $78 million in contracts to build solar panels at its facilities with a goal to derive 15 percent of its annual electricity usage from renewable sources by 2013.
  • The Department of Energy has issued loan guarantees for solar power projects and manufacturing facilities that will create more than 26,000 jobs.
  • The Department of the Interior has approved permits for solar power projects on public lands that will provide enough power for over 730,000 homes.
  • The Department of Agriculture actively promotes the deployment of solar energy on farms and ranches throughout the country. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 extended benefits to farmers and ranchers who utilize solar systems.

And the list goes on.

The U.S. market is expected to more than double yet again in 2011, installing enough solar for more than 400,000 homes. Last year, the industry set the ambitious yet achievable goal of installing 10 gigawatts annually by 2015 – enough to power 2 million more homes each and every year. Combining continued leadership from the Administration with industry innovation that drives down cost, that goal is now within reach.

Rhone Resch is President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

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7 Comments to “Fastest Growing Industry in the U.S. – Solar Energy”

  1. Dan says:

    It may be time to remind the VA they are a government agency and not part of the political system of propaganda put forth by the White House to provide a skewed, incomplete view of the benefits of solar energy. The crossp -posting of this article on the White House blog is proof of a bias.

    Solar energy, at this point,is still not economically competitive. The jobs in the sector have, in large part, been produced through government subsidy of one kind or another (such as the recent VA contract).

    I plan to forward this posting to my congressman and ask that he investigate the use of the VA to promote political agenda. This is not the first subject that has appeared on this blog that is favorable to the (current) particular viewpoint.

    • James Laubler says:

      I agree.

    • Alex Horton says:

      Hey Dan, in the meantime you are welcome to submit a guest post that can challenge the viewpoint of this blog post. We’re all about discussion here and I’d like to hear your argument.

      • Dan says:

        Hey? First of all, I don’t appreciate your salutation.

        I don’t believe a guest post of “my argument” is necessary to clarify my position that political views that praise any political party, or individual have no place on a VA blog. Therefore, I will decline your taunt.

        If anything you should be more sensitive that over 62% of active duty and veterans do not support the actions of this administration. (Source Gallup, based of 238,000 interviews with active duty/veterans published on 5/30/11).

        • Alex Horton says:

          Well Dan, we don’t endorse anything in the guest post column because we want both positive and critical commentary to appear there. We just want it to relate to issues affecting Veterans, and since the project involved VA facilities, it went up. I really don’t think that praises one group over another, or at all for that matter. But if you want to provide balance on viewpoints, the offer still stands. Especially if you would like to represent that apparent majority you mentioned.

  2. James Laubler says:

    More batteries for cars. More batteries for solar. Did you know that battery operated cars are consider HAZERDOUS MATERIAL?

    Jobs? The idea is not to hire more people than other industries. That just keeps the higher prices high. The job creation is good. But it needs to happen with sound business practices of keeping the company lean on expenses.

    Finally. China is (by far) the largest maker of solar panals.

    Let’s put NASA to work on these projects since we are taking away the shuttle program.

  3. charles klatte says:

    The US Government should give tax incentives for US companies to produce solar panels in the US. They, along with State governments should give tax rebates/incentives for home and business owners that use solar and other renewable sources of energy. The technology has been there for decades; now its time to get it into top gear.