Solar photovoltaic panels, or PV panels, are a fast-growing source of clean, renewable energy for homeowners, businesses, and agricultural sectors. The panels use solar photovoltaic cells to translate sunlight particles into electrical currents that people can use to power their homes. Better yet, solar battery technology allows homeowners to store and use solar energy even when the sun isn’t shining.
If you’re curious about this ever-evolving technology, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll show you facts and statistics to help you understand solar on an individual, national, and global scale.
Solar Energy Today
- The sun provides more energy to the Earth in one hour than the worldwide human population uses in an entire year.
- The National Renewable Energy Laboratory projects solar will make up 45% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2050.
- In Q1 of 2022, the United States installed enough panels to power nearly 22 million homes.
- The International Renewable Energy Agency speculates that recycled solar panels contain the resources needed to develop 60 million new panels.
- A 2019 study by Zillow found that homes with solar energy systems sold for nearly $10,000 more than traditionally powered homes.
- In 2019, over 2 million U.S. households used solar panels; installation rates have since upped by 43%.
- The United States ranks second in the world behind China for solar energy generation.
The Economics of Solar Power
Some people avoid solar panel installation because they fear the process is too expensive. This may have been the case a decade ago, but the growing popularity and need for clean energy have made solar more affordable. This affordability – coupled with the solar industry’s huge contribution to the job market – makes the technology an economic gold mine.
Solar as an Economic Driver
As of 2020, the solar industry was producing nearly 250,000 jobs for Americans. This number is 167% higher than just a decade ago – proving that the industry creates more than just clean energy. Solar employs more Americans than the natural gas, coal, and energy sectors combined.
According to a 2019 study from CNBC, “solar photovoltaic installer” is the number one fastest-growing job title in the United States. The occupation is projected to grow by 105% by 2026. The job typically requires a high school diploma and additional training courses, making it an excellent career opportunity for those without college degrees.
Solar Panels and Home Value
Many homeowners fear that adding PV panels to their homes will depreciate their resale value. Luckily for those wanting to go solar, this isn’t true. A 2019 study from Zillow found that homes with solar energy systems sold for nearly $10,000 more than traditionally powered homes.
In fact, many homebuyers view solar panels as a coveted upgrade. Forbes reports that homeowners will likely earn back 97% of installation costs when they sell their houses. If you install panels for $30,000, your home’s sale price will increase by about $29,100. When you factor in the panels’ monthly energy savings, they’ve more than paid for themselves.
Cost of Solar Panels for Homeowners
Your energy expenditure determines the cost of solar panel installation for your home. Paradise Energy Solutions provides the following cost estimates for households with varying monthly electric bills:
|Average Monthly Electric Bill||Solar System Size Needed||Average Installation Cost|
These prices are undoubtedly high. Luckily, federal and state governments offer tax incentives to help homeowners afford installation. Additionally, solar panels have a solid return on investment rate, which means you’ll make back your investment over time.
Solar Power Trends
Before diving into worldwide solar trends, you must understand how solar energy is quantified. The renewable energy sector quantifies production in gigawatts. A billion watts – units of energy – make up this enormous amount of power. Over 3 million solar panels are required to produce just one GW of power.
Solar Trends in the United States
The United States installed nearly four GW of PV panel capacity in the first three months of 2022 alone. The country now has enough panels to energize 22 million homes.
Overall, the United States’ solar energy production counteracts nearly 70 million metric tons of CO2 emissions yearly – an emissions reduction equivalent to planting over a billion trees.
California is the largest solar producer in the U.S., accounting for nearly 40% of the country’s production.
Global Solar Production Trends
Solar photovoltaic production increased 23% from 2019 to 2020. It’s now the third largest renewable electricity source worldwide, accounting for over 3% of global electricity production. China owned approximately 75% of the production increase due to its Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) scheme, an initiative designed to promote renewable electricity production.
The United States also saw a PV production boom in 2020 as manufacturers rushed to take advantage of the expiring production tax credit. Today, the United States ranks only second in the world for solar energy generation. China ranks first and owns 35% of the global solar market, with over 250 GW capacity.
The Future of Solar Energy
One of the most exciting aspects of solar technology is how it can energize the future. The following sections discuss how large-scale solar production can buffer climate change and carry the renewable energy sector for the next 30 years.
Importance of Worldwide Solar Implementation
More solar energy reaches the Earth in one hour than the global human population could use in a year. This means there’s a lot of clean energy circulating the Earth – we just have to commit to harnessing it.
Many nations around the globe have committed to lofty solar goals to meet climate change reduction targets detailed in the Paris Agreement. This United Nations contract aims to keep global warming to no higher than 1.5°C and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030.
Unfortunately, we aren’t on track to meet current emissions reduction goals. The global energy sector produces three-fourths of the total greenhouse gas emissions, so utilizing clean, renewable energy sources is crucial to meeting the 2030 goal.
According to the United Nations Net Zero Coalition, national plans currently fall short of the requirements to meet reduction targets. Achieving net zero emissions requires all governments – especially the biggest greenhouse gas contributors – to implement swift and aggressive policy changes and renewable energy production efforts.
Many movements start at a local level. Learn how you can help by converting your home into a zero net energy home.
Solar Futures Study Key Findings
The U.S. Department of Energy developed the Solar Futures Study to explore solar energy’s role in climate change reduction efforts from 2020 to 2050.
The project found:
- Solar production needs to grow 30 GW per year by 2030 for the resource to dominate 40% of America’s electricity supply.
- If clean energy efforts accelerate with the net zero emissions target, the solar industry will employ up to 1.5 million people by 2035.
- The benefits of reducing carbon emissions far outweigh the costs of related initiatives.
- A solar power system the size of 0.5% of the contiguous United States is needed to meet solar energy needs for 2050.
- Along with powering homes, photovoltaic technology can contribute to decarbonizing the construction, industrial, and transportation sectors.
Homeowners, businesses, industries, and entire nations have a huge opportunity to make a difference for our planet. With strict policy implementation and laser focus on net zero goals, we can harness the near-limitless power our Sun has to offer.
FAQs About Solar Energy
Do solar panels work on cloudy days?
Solar panels generate power even on cloudy days. They use solar photovoltaic cells that translate sunlight particles into electrical currents. PV panels get the most payoff on days with bright, direct sunlight, but overcast skies won’t inhibit energy production.
Will solar energy save me money?
Solar panels will save you money, but those savings aren’t instant. A 2021 study by GreenLancer suggests that solar panels save customers around $2,000 per year on their energy bills. If a panel installation costs $14,000 after incentives are applied, the panel will pay for itself in just seven years.
Most panels have a projected 25-year life span, while many last for over 30. This means that while the return on investment may take a while, it will likely double or even triple before the panels die. GreenLancer notes that savings depend on a home’s location, sun exposure, and typical energy costs. With those variations in mind, solar can save homeowners $10,000 to $90,000 over 25 years.
What are some advantages of solar power?
Here are some advantages of solar energy described by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors:
- The amount of available solar energy far exceeds what humans can use.
- Solar panels are recyclable, which makes them even more eco-friendly. The International Renewable Energy Agency suggests that recycled solar panels contain the resources needed to develop 60 million new panels.
- The solar industry provides thousands of new jobs in the renewable energy sector.
- Solar panels require little to no maintenance after installation.
- Panels produce energy in cold, hot, and even cloudy weather. As long as light is reaching the Earth, these incredible machines are at work producing clean energy.
Will solar power become cheaper?
Solar prices have already dropped over 70% since 2010. As prices drop and solar efficiency improves, the technology will continue to become more affordable for homeowners and businesses.
- CNBC, “The fastest-growing job in the US is expected to grow 105% by 2026—here are the other 19.”
- Daily Infographic, “How Many Homes Have Solar Panels?”
- Forbes, “How Much Do Solar Panels Boost Home Sale Prices?”
- GreenLancer, “How Much Do Solar Panels Save?
- IEA, “Solar PV: More Efforts Needed.”
- International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, “Advantages of Solar Energy.”
- International Renewable Energy Agency, “End-Of-Life Management: Solar Photovoltaic Panels.”
- NASDAQ, “The Top Five Nations Leading in Solar Energy Generation.”
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “Solar Energy Basics.”
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “Building a Solar-Powered Future.”
- Office of Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics.”
- Office of Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “How Much Power Is One Gigawatt?”
- Paradise Energy Solutions, “How Much Do Solar Panels Cost For a 1,000-Square-Foot House?”
- Solar Energy Industries Association, “Solar Industry Research Data.”
- Solar Energy Industries Association, “U.S. Solar Market Insight.”
- The Solar Foundation, “Solar Jobs Census 2019.”
- U.S. Department of Energy, “Solar Futures Study.”
- United Nations Net Zero Coalition, “For a Livable Climate: Net-Zero Commitments Must Be Backed By Credible Action.”
- Zillow, “Homes With Solar Panels Sell for 4.1% More.”