For years, the solar energy market in the US has been booming, driven by better technology, falling prices for materials, and fiercer competition.
Now, it seems, all those advances are paying off.
The US Department of Energy announced this week that the solar industry has already achieved the utility-scale solar target of $1 per watt that was set for 2020. That means that it costs less than $1 per watt for utilities companies to build large-scale solar farms.
That’s 500% cheaper than 2010 costs, and solar energy costs are continuing their plunge.
It also now costs $0.06 per kilowatt/hour to consume solar energy, which is the historical average cost of coal.
Solar energy in the US has gone from a marginal experiment to a formidable competitor.
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In 2007, the country had 1.1 gigawatts of solar power available. Today, there are an estimated 47.1 GW, enough to power 9.1 million average American homes.
By the end of the year, solar’s global gigawatt (GW) capacity could surpass nuclear energy. By 2022, it could double nuclear power. And by 2050, it could become the largest source of energy in the world, according to new data from GTM Research.
Solar power is expected to reach 390 GWs globally by the end of the year, while nuclear energy currently stands at 391.5 GWs. Generating a single GW requires 4.6 million solar panels.
At roughly 1.5% of the US’s energy demands, solar is still a small fraction of the total energy supply, but current projections have it becoming the dominant global source of energy by 2050.
Solar has shown a propensity for breaking expectations and meeting goals way ahead of schedule, so the 2050 mark could be achieved even sooner.
The US government, for its part, will now be revising its targets for 2020 and is refocusing its efforts toward improving the coordination between solar farms and national grids, according to its press release.