The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration latest monthly report shows that in June 2015 utility-scale solar generation produced 2,765 gigawatt hours of electric generation. A record for the fastest-growing source of new energy in the U.S.
“Solar electricity output in June is a good indicator of the recent growth of the solar industry because June has the highest monthly average of sunlight per day,” EIA stated. Indeed, solar is growing quickly. The generation in June is up 35.8 percent from the 2,036 gigawatt hours of solar generation produced last June. “The main driver to this growth was the continued expansion of solar photovoltaic capacity, which increased by 47.5 percent from June 2014 to June 2015. Over that same period, solar thermal capacity increased by 18.1 percent.”
There’s still a way to go before solar becomes a more serious player in the energy generation market. Solar produced less than 1 percent of the more 361,689 gigawatt hours of electricity produced in the U.S. in June. But solar power is growing, quickly. “Utility-scale solar now accounts for just over a half percent of U.S. electricity production,” according to GTM Research’s Stephen Lacy, who reported on the EIA data.
Already more than 7 new gigawatts of utility-scale solar power are slated to come online by the end of 2016, according to Lacy. In the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report earlier this year his organization and the Solar Energy Industries Association also anticipated that the U.S. would install up to 7.9 gigawatts of solar power in 2015, too. Almost doubling the roughly 20 gigawatts of solar power online in the U.S. at the end of 2014.
But that’s only one side of the picture. Residential and small business solar installations are also growing. In an earlier EIA monthly update the agency reported that small-scale solar installations: “Have increased each year since 2010 at an annual rate of about 1,100 MW and now total 5,251 MW.”
“Add in the 700,000 distributed projects around the country—which make up 45 percent of U.S. installed capacity—and solar generation is over 1 percent of production,” Lacy said.
The makeup of the solar electric generation has also changed, the EIA noted. “Between 2005 and 2010, the vast majority of utility-scale solar generation came from large solar thermal facilities. Solar thermal facilities accounted for about 85 percent of total annual utility-scale solar generation from 2005 to 2010,” it stated. “Beginning in 2011, photovoltaic generation began to grow at a higher rate than thermal generation, even though solar thermal generation has continued to expand as well. In 2014, the photovoltaic share was 86.6 percent of the total solar generation supplied to the electricity grid.” Now it’s increased to 87.6 percent.Tweet