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U.S. Solar 2018: A Year-End Review

U.S. Solar 2018: A Year-End Review

As we enter the New Year, it’s important to look back over the struggles and successes of the previous year. And what a year it was for the solar industry! Despite a few major challenges, the U.S. solar sector stayed strong and made significant progress. Much of that forward motion is due to continually increasing public support for alternative energy technology and environmental stewardship.

Let’s take a look back at what U.S. solar accomplished in 2018:

Greater Public Awareness of Climate Change

Due to a number of high profile natural disasters, including Hurricanes Michael and Florence and the Camp and Carr wildfires in California, the threat posed by climate change was a prominent part of our national discourse. While our government struggles to take meaningful action, consumers have begun to vote with their dollars, making it clear that they believe clean energy sources are vital to our future.

As a result, the solar market is growing in geographic areas of the country that have previously been challenging to reach. California still leads the nation in solar adoption, but Florida and Texas have emerged as major markets as well. Fast Company recently reported on a program called DeepSolar, which used AI to scan satellite images and tally the number of panels in the United States. It found “1.47 million rooftop solar systems or larger solar plants in 48 states,” a much greater figure than previously reported.

Domestic Solar Manufacturing on the Rise

The tariffs imposed by the Trump administration did encourage domestic solar manufacturers. As PV Magazine reports, “3.9 GW of new module manufacturing capacity... is currently underway in five new factories, as well as a few hundred megawatts more in several smaller factories” across the country. They note that while tariffs were a motivating factor, plans for many of these factories were underway before that decision complicated the U.S. solar market.

While domestic solar module manufacturing is increasing, it is unclear how profitable it will be in the future as the Section 201 tariffs continue their yearly decline. Nevertheless, consumers who wish to purchase American-made solar modules despite the additional expense now have greater options to choose from.

Solar + Storage Continues to Gain Traction

As we predicted this time last year, Solar + Storage systems were a major source of growth in 2018. The residential energy storage market grew 9x in the first quarter of the year and 10x in Q2, spurred in part by initiatives in states such as California and Hawaii. The outlook is so strong that Tesla’s Elon Musk predicted “300-400% of ‘mad growth’ in energy storage in 2019.”

A report released by Energy Sage early in 2018 found that “74% of customers shopping for solar on their online solar marketplace were considering energy storage,” indicating that consumers who are educated about battery options consider them a natural extension of their interest in adopting solar power. The outlook for battery storage is strong going into 2019.

Solar Prices Still Falling

Perhaps the best news for solar consumers is that, despite the ups and downs of the past year, solar panel and battery options continue to increase and prices continue to fall. PV Magazine writes that “Solar power electricity generation pricing is the cheapest electricity you can get every single day at 12 noon in many places across the United States.” Because of this, even utility companies are coming around to embracing solar energy as part of their plans for the future, especially those who are mandated to buy power from the cheapest source.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) notes that “higher-voltage inverter designs, lower inverter prices, and higher module efficiencies contributed to cost reductions” in 2018, despite reasonable fears that solar tariffs would drive up prices. For residential and commercial consumers (and even utility companies, it seems) the choice is clear - solar power is the cheapest and most reliable way to mitigate our negative impact on our environment and save money on energy bills.

The Future is Solar

After a sometimes tumultuous year, it’s satisfying to see that the U.S. solar industry is still going strong. At Solar Design Studio, so is our commitment to helping consumers source, design, and install the most efficient and effective solar installations possible. We know that solar power is the future of energy production and we’re grateful to clients past, present, and future for joining us there.

Contact us today to begin your solar journey in 2019!

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I am very pleased with the outcome on my solar system designed by your company. This design was a very professional presentation of a well thought out plan. I believe the components of the system are of high quality and will last many years. I also received some positive comments about the electrical diagrams from my electrician. Job will done!

Terry Elwell Leeton, MO

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