Right now, we’re in the midst of a full-blown solar power explosion in America. Just consider these facts:
- Approximately 6.6 gigawatts of solar energy will be installed in the U.S in 2014 (for comparison, a typical nuclear power plant with two reactors produces about 2.0 gigawatts).
- Solar energy is now generating enough clean electricity to effectively power three million American homes.
- The U.S. installed 79 percent more solar in the first quarter of 2014 than the first quarter of 2013.
- There are almost 500,000 operating solar energy systems in the U.S.
- 74 percent of new electrical generating capacity in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014 came from solar.
How good can it get? At the end of 2013, the U.S. had about 12 gigawatts of installed solar, producing approximately 1 percent of its electricity. Looking at Germany, the world’s second biggest solar energy producer after China, is a good way to get a glimpse of where the U.S. will be in a few years. Germany plans to get 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources (including wind power) by 2050. They are making good progress, with 27 percent of their energy coming from renewables in the first quarter of 2014.
Germany is a solar powerhouse, but we are beginning to catch up. In 2013, the U.S. installed more solar than Germany, although Germany still has ten times more solar per capita than the U.S.
Rooftop solar installations produce power that is used largely where it is made. Why transport power to your property when you can make it less expensively on your own roof or in your backyard? In solar industry jargon, rooftop solar is called “distributed energy,” indicating that these solar energy systems are spread out to where the energy is used. We prefer to call rooftop solar “local energy,” because it’s made and consumed locally.
Our solar projects are grid-connected, but most of our customers get the majority of their power locally, from their solar energy systems.
So far, about half of the total solar installed in the U.S. is from local power—rooftop systems on homes and businesses. The rest comes from large solar farms. Local power has the brightest future. Local power does not require vast tracts of land, because it uses otherwise wasted space in the built environment. Local energy does not require the construction and upkeep of hundreds of miles of new transmission lines, because it’s used where it’s made.
Local power in the U.S. is just really getting started, but it is coming on fast. In just the first three months of 2014, an astonishing 40,000 American homes installed solar, and the number just keeps growing.
Homes and businesses in the Southwest and Northeast, where utility costs are highest, can profit handsomely from solar. Local power is everywhere.