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How big is the U.S. solar industry, and what is its growth trajectory?
The U.S. solar industry generated US$154 billion in economic activity in 2016, including direct sales, wages, salaries, benefits, taxes and fees. Its revenues have grown from $42 million in 2007 to $210 million in 2017.
Why are most of the solar panels that are installed in the United States manufactured overseas? Is this pattern likely to change?
About 80 percent of solar panels installed in the United States last year were built overseas. While the industry was invented here, China has poured up to $47 billion into tax breaks and incentives in order to develop what it views as a strategic capability.
Which sectors and states produce the most solar power today?
About 60 percent of total U.S. solar generating capacity is in a relatively small number of very big projects owned by power companies. The rest is what’s known as distributed capacity, meaning small-scale projects that generate energy at many sites. It includes rooftop solar power on homes, community solar projects and commercial installations, such as solar panels on the roofs of big-box stores like Walmart. California has nearly half of all U.S. solar electricity generating capacity, followed by Arizona, New Jersey and North Carolina.
How affordable is solar power for customers who aren’t affluent?
Affordability can be a barrier to going solar, but there are ways to reduce it. For example, some utility customers can subscribe to community solar programs.
What are the biggest challenges that U.S. solar companies face today?
There are signs that the residential solar market is slowing down. Some companies are shifting their focus from deploying as much capacity as possible to trying to maximize revenue by scaling back expansion, so that they can focus on a few states that offer the best returns on investment.
Read the full article about the U.S. solar industry by Joshua D. Rhodes at The Conversation.