Another quarter down, another solar record set. According to the latest figures from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar had its best second quarter in history. Below, I’ve selected three key stats that I think best help to explain their findings, and the state of solar overall.
The United States installed 2,387 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity in the second quarter of 2017, bringing our total installed capacity to 47.1 gigawatts (GW). That’s enough solar capacity to power 9.1 million American homes with clean energy.
You might be thinking: The fact that we’ve installed two GW per quarter for the last seven quarters doesn’t actually sound that impressive. How much is a GW, actually?
Great question. Fortunately, the Department of Energy put together a helpful piece answering the question, “How much power is 1 gigawatt?” So using their figures, each quarter for the the last seven quarters, we’ve installed solar capacity equivalent to 9.2 million PV panels, 1,000 utility-scale wind turbines, or 200 million LED bulbs. Two GW seems a lot more impressive now, doesn’t it?
Finally, while those numbers from last quarter and to date are impressive, we also know that we have a lot more work ahead of us to meet our full potential, and address climate change. Just by putting solar panels on existing rooftops, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) tells us that we could generate 40 percent of our total electricity needs. In 2016, solar made up just one percent of our electricity portfolio.
Not to mention, scientists tell us that in order to hit the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement — which gives us the best chance of avoiding the worst impacts of global warming—we need to almost completely slash carbon emissions by midcentury, at the latest. That means transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, and solar needs to play a significant role in that.
According to SEIA’s projections, we’re expected to triple our solar capacity over the next five years, and by that time (2022), we’ll be installing 16 GW annually. There’s no denying that’s a huge jump, but again, we need to accelerate that growth to get where we need to be. Not only that, but utility and fossil fuel lobbyists are attacking pro-solar policies across the country — and unfortunately, those attacks seem to be taking their toll.
We plan on both fighting back against those attacks, as well as fighting for even more ambitious solar commitments at the local, state and national level. Looking forward to more good news to report after quarter three!