By Rhone Resch
June 18, 2015 at 5:00 am ET
Think about this for a second: If California was a nation, it would rank sixth in the world in installed solar capacity. That’s pretty amazing – and one of the key takeaways from the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, which was just released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Today, California has more solar assets than nations such as the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Australia and Belgium, becoming the first state in the U.S. to top 10,000 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity.
California made history in the first quarter of this year by installing 718 MW of solar energy, raising the state’s total capacity to 10,649 MW – enough to power nearly 2.6 million homes. California had big increases in Q1 across all solar sectors. Of the new capacity added, 231 MW were residential, 88 MW were commercial and 399 MW were utility scale. Together, these installations represent a $1.7 billion investment across the state in the first quarter alone.
When it comes to creating clean energy jobs and protecting the environment, California is showing the world how to get the job done. To put the state’s remarkable progress in some context, today California has 10 times more installed solar capacity than the entire U.S. had in 2007. Gov. Brown, his administration, legislative leaders and the people of California deserve congratulations for being at the forefront of America’s efforts to create a vibrant and growing clean energy economy.
California’s explosive growth in solar is due in large part to stable and effective public policies such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and Net Energy Metering (NEM). Nationwide, solar remains the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the U.S., and it is supported by 9 out of 10 Americans.
In the first quarter of this year, California benefitted from the completion of the massive Desert Sunlight project, developed by First Solar and located in the Mojave Desert. Desert Sunlight has the capacity to generate 550 MW of electricity, which is enough to power 160,000 California homes.
The residential market also continued to flourish in Q1, with installed system prices dropping 4 percent year-over-year – and down nearly 50 percent since 2010. The upswing in residential installations is expected to continue in the foreseeable future, especially in light of a recent report by the California Energy Commission, which shows that more than a quarter of all new homes being built in Southern California are being constructed with solar energy systems. Presently, there are 2,226 solar companies at work throughout the state, employing 54,700 Californians.
Any way you look at it, the sun is shining brightly these days on the Golden State.
Rhone Resch is President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.