California Sets Record; Surpasses UK, France, Spain in Installed Solar Capacity

Think about this for a second: If California was a nation, it would rank 6th in the world in installed solar capacity.  Wow.  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). 


Aerial photo of the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm. Photo Courtesy of Desert Sunlight & the California Energy Commission

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.  The report went on to point out that 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 represented 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 nation had in 2007.  We congratulate Gov. Brown, his administration, legislative leaders and the people of California 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 United States, 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.

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Rhone Resch is the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the solar energy industry representing over 1,000 companies that manufacture, develop and install solar systems of all sizes and technologies. At SEIA, Rhone is responsible for leading the growth of the industry by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening R&D and educating the public. SEIA’s recent legislative successes include the 8-year extension and expansion of the investment tax credits for solar, creation of the Treasury grant program and the section 48C manufacturing tax credit, and expansion of the loan guarantee program for renewable energy. In the regulatory arena, Rhone recently led the industry through an adverse customs ruling eventually overturning the tariff, saving the industry several hundred million dollars. He has over 18 years of experience in the public and private sector working in clean energy development and climate change issues. In addition to serving as the Vice President for the Natural Gas Supply Association, Rhone has also served as Program Manager at the EPA's Climate Protection Division during the Clinton administration. Rhone holds an MPA in Management from Syracuse University's Maxwell School, a Master of Environmental Engineering from SUNY Syracuse, and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. He lives with his wife Lisa and two children in a solar-powered home in Washington, D.C.

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