Solar energy production and usage have come a long way. In 2020, the U.S. produced solar power amounting to 80,000 megawatts, the largest in history. A Climate Central report states that the country’s renewable energy generation capacity grew rapidly in 2022.
Solar energy generation had a 16% increase compared to the year before. Moreover, it is estimated to increase by 20% in thirty years. Currently, 2.7 million solar panels are being used in residential homes.
Solar power used for electricity is cost-effective and sustainable. It also benefits rural economies and promotes a healthy environment. In this blog, we will discuss everything you need to know about solar power generation and implementation in the U.S.
Table of Contents
An Update on U.S. Solar Energy Usage
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducts solar industry updates to represent technical trends and changes. Ideally, it focuses on in-demand models that support the American solar industry.
#1. Solar Energy Production
In 2022, America became the second-largest solar energy producer based on annual installations. As a result, researchers predict a production of 300 gigawatts (GW) of solar power in 2023.
#2. Photovoltaic Installation
In 2010, PVs generated only 4% of the annual electricity. However, in 2022, that number rose to a whopping 46%. Approximately 16 states generated 5% of their electricity from solar.
#3. Power Supplied to Electrical Grids
At the beginning of 2022, America installed PVs amounting to 17 GW of alternating current (GWac). By the end of the year, there was a cumulative PV installation of 110.1 GWac. As a result, the electric grid stored about 14.1 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of solar power.
Did the Solar Industry Create New Career Opportunities?
The solar industry has indeed changed the way America utilizes and generates electricity. But the immense number of job opportunities created is a lesser-known fact.
In 2022, the solar industry employed over 260,000 solar workers nationwide. According to the National Solar Jobs Census, this number represents a 3.5% growth since 2021. Additionally, the demand for this renewable energy has created job opportunities for 250,000 Americans.
Two-thirds of these jobs were in installation firms. Moreover, the demand for PV installer jobs is expected to grow by 27% in the next ten years. Even then, 44% of employers found it challenging to get qualified applicants. The solar industry is now an ‘in-demand’ sector for the young generation.
Anyone with offline or online degrees in engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain management can work in this industry. With a manufacturing degree, you can work as a solar technician or manufacturing technician.
Moreover, an engineering degree will help you land a solar engineering technician or site manager position. A supply chain management degree allows you to become a solar sales representative or a quality assurance manager.
Working with solar energy will be personally fulfilling as you strive towards an environmental cause. Moreover, your salary package can be anywhere between USD 50,000 and USD 110,000, based on your degree and experience.
According to Kettering University, such certificate programs teach operation management, electrical engineering, and more. Therefore, these degrees will give you the technical know-how to install, manufacture, or research PV systems as a career option. This way, you can work with state-approved contractors and help fellow Americans ‘save the planet.’
4 Challenges of Solar Energy Implementation
As of May 2022, the Hawaiian city of Honolulu produced approximately 1,133 watts of photovoltaic energy per person. Las Vegas, Nevada, had 689.9 watts per person. Moreover, San Diego, California, generated 337.4 watts per person. These cities earned the title ‘Solar Superstars.’
In 2021, the Biden administration passed the Build Back Better bill. It aims to offer USD 555 billion for green energy production. However, America still needs to overcome multiple challenges to make solar energy efficient and viable:
- Initial installation costs are high, even if manufacturing costs have decreased
- Delay in solar energy supply through electrical grids due to detained government permissions
- Variability in energy production due to weather change, as it relies heavily on the sun
- Unstable and inefficient renewable energies in varied locations due to climate change
California houses the best solar farms in America. For instance, the Solar Star project comprises 1.7 million PV systems spanning 3,200 acres. It provides electricity to 255,000 homes.
The Topaz Solar Farm spans over 4,700 acres with 9 million solar panels. It can create electricity for 180,000 houses. If used correctly, these solar farms will lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce air pollution, and improve public health. These can also make cities resilient if a natural disaster destroys the power grid.
The Way Forward
According to the NREL, solar power and PV systems will rapidly grow in the next thirty years. They project that 45% of America’s electricity production by 2050 will come from solar power. Moreover, utility-scale renewable energy adoption will increase as technology becomes cheaper.
Currently, only 3% of solar-viable homes have PV systems. This number can rise to 22% by 2050. However, it will only be possible with proper services, operation, and implementation.
The solar power future in America is bright and full of possibilities. Implementation of this energy can bring economic benefits to various communities in America. However, there is still a long way to go.