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U.S. Solar Has Grown Rapidly Over The Last Six Years

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By Editors of Power Engineering

Utility-scale solar installations grew at an annualized rate of 72 percent between 2010 and 2016, faster than any other generating technology, the Energy Information Administration reported.

Though the first utility-scale solar plants were installed in the mid-1980s, more than half of all currently-operating solar capacity came online over the last two years.

Solar now makes up two percent of all utility-scale electric generation, with 21.5 GW of solar in operation as of December 2016. Of that total, 7.6 GW came online in 2016.

California has the highest installed capacity of any state, a number of other states have deployed significant utility-scale solar capacity in recent years, thanks to renewable portfolio standards or state renewable tax credits.

The federal government has provided a 30 percent investment tax credit since 2005, though that is scheduled to phase down or expire by 2022.

Even with the growth, solar’s share of electrical generation is 0.9 percent of all electrical generation, due to its need for sunlight and seasonal fluctuations. Some systems are now paired with an energy storage system for greater operational flexibility.

Small-scale solar systems grew by 3.4 GW in 2016, with an estimated 13.1 GW of installed capacity.