All the Ways 2015 Was a Breakthrough Year for Solar Power

A Look Back at the Year in Solar

solar power progress in 2015

Renewable energy advocates have long touted solar energy’s potential as a source of clean, affordable energy. Now, it looks like the rest of the world is getting on board.

2014 was a record-shattering year for solar energy, but 2015 has been even better. Let’s take a look at all the ways 2015 was a breakthrough year for everyone’s favorite renewable energy source: solar power.

The Paris Climate Change Accord

Critics say the accord reached at the United Nations Climate Change Conference doesn’t go nearly far enough, and they may be right. But it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Time will tell whether all 195 participant nations will make good on their voluntary commitments, but there’s no denying that this historic agreement is a huge step in the right direction, and it’s certainly going to spur solar growth – not just in the government sector, but in the public and private sectors, as well.

Solar Is More Affordable Than Ever

Cost has traditionally been one of solar energy’s main stumbling blocks in terms of gaining more widespread acceptance, but it’s quickly becoming a moot point for many consumers.

New financing options and continually falling equipment costs have made solar energy extremely competitive in most markets, and an outright bargain in many others. Over the past five years, solar’s price tag has been slashed by nearly 80%. Talk about a great deal!

Solar Job Growth Is Huge

As 2014 drew to a close, industry experts proudly announced job growth at a rate 20 times higher than the rest of the U.S. economy. According to the January report, the solar industry was expected to add an additional 36,000 workers over the course of 2015. As of this writing, the solar job growth numbers for the past year are unconfirmed, but it’s a safe bet that they met or exceeded the forecasts.

Solar Investment Tax Credit Extended

This year, there’s been a lot of talk about the expiration of the Solar Investment Tax Credit. This incentive reduces the cost of going solar substantially, by offering solar adopters a tax credit for 30% of qualified solar installation and equipment expenses.

While increasing concern over climate change and solar’s rapidly falling costs have certainly contributed to growth in the sector, there’s no denying that the Solar ITC has given the industry a substantial boost.

The credit was slated to expire at the end of next year, but lawmakers have voted to extend the credit yet again, this time through 2021.

Everyone’s Going Solar

If you’ve noticed solar panels cropping up just about everywhere, you’re not imagining things. These days, just about everybody is going solar. It’s estimated that over the past year, U.S. solar capacity has grown by approximately 7.2 gigawatts. That’s a YOY growth rate of nearly 20%. How many industries can say that?

Off-Grid Living Is Close at Hand

Net metering has its perks, but some solar enthusiasts would prefer to cut ties with the utilities altogether. 2015 held good news for them, as well. Currently, most solar users draw electricity from the utilities when solar energy tapers off during the evening, because the batteries needed to store electricity for later use have traditionally been cumbersome, expensive, and high-maintenance.

This year, however, Tesla introduced the Powerwall, a solar storage battery that is efficient, reliable, and relatively affordable. Solar experts may dismiss some of founder Elon Musk’s lofty claims about his company’s new battery, but the idea of affordable off-grid solar living seems like a safe bet in the near future.

Full Speed Ahead

There’s no doubt about it: 2015 has been a huge year for solar energy. But don’t expect the energy source of the future to rest on its laurels. Many industry insiders say solar capacity growth will double next year! Will 2016 be the year you go solar?

[Photo via: Extremetech]