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Top Solar Energy Facts and Statistics (2024)

Default Author Icon Written by Tamara Jude Updated 03/22/2024

Solar energy has become increasingly popular in American households within the last decade. Solar adoption is soaring, with 4.7 million systems operating as of 2023. Thanks to federal and state incentives, the cost of solar panel systems is becoming more accessible to homeowners. In this article, we outline solar energy facts and statistics to spotlight the present and future powered by the most abundant energy source on Earth.

New residential house in USA with roof covered with solar panels for producing of clean ecological electricity in suburban rural area. Concept of investing in autonomous home for energy saving.
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Solar Energy Usage Facts

As solar technology improves and costs continue to fall, a growing number of homes and businesses are adopting solar energy. Solar usage is accelerating across the United States, from new construction homes built with solar arrays to expanded community solar projects. Here are some key facts about solar energy usage across the United States.

13% Growth Forecasted for the Residential Solar Market in 2023

Wood Mackenzie forecasted 13% growth for residential solar in 2023, as reported by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Net-metering policies, solar tax credits, and building code improvements are making residential adoption easier.

Nearly 5 Million Solar Energy Systems Operating in the United States

SEIA estimates that 4.7 million solar energy systems were operating in the United States as of Q3 2023. This represents an immense 262% growth from more than 1.3 million residential solar installations in 2016. 

43 U.S. States With Community Solar Projects 

As of December 2022, community solar initiatives had taken root in 43 states and Washington, D.C., showcasing a significant push toward renewable energy adoption. Four states dominate nearly three-quarters of this market—Florida, New York, Minnesota, and Massachusetts lead with installations totaling 1,636 megawatts alternating current (MW-AC), 1,166 MW-AC, 875 MW-AC, and 858 MW-AC, respectively. 

Record Residential Solar Installations in Q3 2023

The U.S. residential solar market achieved a new high by installing 1.8 gigawatts-direct current (GWdc) across more than 210,000 projects nationally in Q3 2023. This 12% year-over-year increase was a result of expanding state incentives.

Solar as the Largest Source of Generating Capacity by 2050

According to Wood Mackenzie projections, solar power is on track to become the biggest single source of electrical generation capacity in the United States by 2050. Driven by precipitous cost declines, improving technology, and supportive state policies, total solar capacity additions are forecast to grow over the next 25 years.


Solar Energy Cost Facts

Recent years were remarkable for solar equipment pricing, from soaring polysilicon prices in early 2022 to subsequent declines in late 2023. Continued technological improvements and manufacturing expansions ensure solar costs’ long-term trajectory remains downward. 

Below, we analyze residential solar system costs, panel pricing, electricity offsets, paybacks, and more.

Average Cost of a Residential Solar System: $3.45 per Watt

Per SEIA’s Solar Market Insight Report, the national average residential solar cost per watt equated to $3.30 in the fourth quarter, a 2% year-over-year decrease in cost. 

Crystalline Silicon Solar Panel Construction Prices Fell 10%

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, crystalline silicon tracking panel construction costs dropped 10% in 2021 to their lowest price since 2014. This drove an overall 6% decrease in solar construction costs, as crystalline silicon tracking panels comprise the majority of solar panels installed in the United States.

Average Cost of Solar Panels: $19,537 (Range: $16,037–$23,037)

The average cost of buying and installing solar panels in the U.S. is $19,537 after factoring in the federal solar tax credit. Most homeowners can expect to pay between $16,037 and $23,037 for a complete solar system installation, depending on factors such as system size, location, and equipment quality.

Expected Levelized Costs of Energy (LCOE) for Solar PV

According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Renewable Energy Market Update from June 2023, the global average levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for solar photovoltaic (PV) is expected to remain 10–15% higher in 2024 compared to 2020 levels. This projection reflects the impact of factors including inflation, supply chain challenges, and increased costs for key materials such as polysilicon, steel, copper, and aluminum.


Solar Energy Growth and Jobs Facts

Solar energy continues to grow as a vibrant job-creation engine across the United States. As one of the fastest expanding electricity sources this decade, solar directly employs hundreds of thousands of people while supporting millions of indirect clean energy jobs. Here, we analyze key solar industry employment statistics.

Nearly 300,000 Jobs Added in the Clean Energy Sector

The U.S. Energy & Employment Report (USEER) 2023 highlights robust job growth within the clean energy sector. Nearly 300,000 positions were added to the sector in 2022. This surge represents a national growth rate of 3.9% for clean energy jobs, underscoring the sector’s expanding role in the U.S. economy. 

Residential Solar Jobs Grow 11% While Utility-Scale Stalls

The 2022 National Solar Jobs Census published in July 2023 found that the number of residential solar workers grew 11% year over year, adding approximately 9,500 jobs as home installations continued rising. The utility-scale solar market experienced a loss of around 6,000 jobs in 2022 due to policy uncertainties. Despite this, the solar industry employed a total of 263,883 workers across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico as of December 2022, with the growth in residential solar jobs offsetting the losses in the utility-scale sector.

5% Increase in Female Workforce in the Solar Industry

Between 2017 and 2022, the solar industry witnessed an increase in gender diversity, with the proportion of women in the solar workforce rising from 27% to 31%. Despite this progress, the representation of Black individuals in the solar sector remained below the national workforce average, accounting for 9% of the solar workforce in 2022, compared to 13% representation across all industries.

Lack of Qualified Workforce in the Solar Industry

In 2022, the solar industry encountered unprecedented difficulties in recruiting qualified personnel, with 44% of employers describing the search as “very difficult”—the highest percentage ever recorded in the Solar Jobs Census.


Solar Energy Incentives

Federal and state governments have created incentives and tax credits to promote the adoption of residential and commercial solar energy. “Going solar” can be an enticing choice depending on your state. Here are some recent statistics about solar energy incentives in the United States.

3.3 Million New Roofs Will Be Installed

An average of 3.3 million new roofs (new build or replacement) are expected to be installed across America annually through 2030, creating the potential for 30 gigawatts of solar panels to be installed on homes each year, according to a 2018 study.

Federal Solar Tax Credit

From 2022 to 2032, homeowners can claim a federal solar tax credit worth 30% of their installed residential solar panel system. The tax credit from the federal government will decrease to 26% in 2033 and to 22% in 2034.


Solar Energy Statistics By State

Solar energy is a rapidly growing sector in the United States, with states across the country harnessing the sun’s power to generate electricity, create jobs, and drive economic growth. Here’s a snapshot of solar energy stats by state.

California

California leads the nation in solar energy with a staggering 46,874 MW installed, powering more than 13 million homes. This represents 28% of the state’s electricity coming from solar. With a solar workforce of 78,116, the state has invested $102.8 billion in solar energy.

Texas

Texas is a rising star in solar energy, ranking second with 22,872 MW installed. This is enough energy to power more than 2.6 million homes. The state’s solar investment totals $27.8 billion, and it leads the nation with a growth projection of 40,913 MW over the next five years.

Florida

The Sunshine State ranks third nationally with 13,912 MW of solar installed, enough to power more than 1.6 million homes. Florida’s solar market is projected to grow 15,592 MW over the next five years, maintaining its third-place ranking.

North Carolina

North Carolina has seen a significant rise in its solar capacity, now ranking fourth nationally with 9,310 MW installed and powering almost 1.2 million homes. This is a leap from its position in the thirteenth spot in 2023. It has invested $12.8 billion in solar and is projected to grow 2,345 MW over the next five years.

Arizona

Arizona solar installations are enough to power almost 1.2 million homes, with a total installed capacity of 7,675 MW. The state has invested $18.8 billion in solar. Prices have fallen by 10% over the last decade, making solar more accessible to Arizona residents.


Our Conclusion

Solar as a renewable residential energy source continues its upward trajectory. While most U.S. homes don’t currently use solar energy, data shows that more homeowners will install solar panels in the coming years. With federal and state solar energy incentives available for homeowners nationwide, it’s worth exploring solar panel options in your community.


Expert Tips and Insights

We turned to a panel of experts for their observations on the solar market and what homeowners should know before installing solar panels. Read their tips and insights below.

Professor and B.P. America Faculty Fellow in the Industrial Engineering Department
University of Pittsburgh
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Read bio
What are common challenges homeowners face when trying to install solar panels?
The upfront cost of purchasing and installing solar panels can seem high. However, there are many available financial incentives. With the federal tax credit, you can reclaim 30% of your system’s cost if installed before 2032, and many states offer additional incentives. Moreover, solar systems are modular by nature, allowing you to start small and expand your system as needed, providing flexibility to fit any budget.
A south-facing roof with minimal shading is ideal for maximizing solar energy generation. However, there are solutions even if your roof is not ideal. Two great resources if you are considering solar energy for your house are Google’s Project Sunroof and NREL’s PVWatts Calculator.
How will the renewable energy industry change as more people adopt solar?
As solar adoption grows, it is driving innovation in energy storage and grid management, ensuring that the intermittent nature of solar power doesn’t hinder our energy reliability. Advancements in battery technology are key as they enable the storage of surplus energy for use during less sunny periods.
What factors do you think are driving the current surge in solar energy’s popularity among homeowners?
The surge in solar energy’s popularity is driven by a combination of decreasing costs, increasing awareness of environmental issues, attractive government incentives, and the appealing prospect of energy independence. As solar panels become more affordable and efficient, and as more people recognize the importance of reducing our carbon footprint, the choice to go solar is becoming not just an environmentally conscious decision, but a financially smart one, too.
Dr. Paul W. Leu received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley before joining the University of Pittsburgh as faculty in 2010. He is currently a Professor and B.P. America Faculty Fellow in the Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh. He has over 60 research publications and has been the recipient of the Oak Ridge Associated University Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award, UPS Minority Advancement Award, and the NSF CAREER Award. He is co-director of the NSF Industry University Cooperative Research Center with Case Western Reserve University called the Center for Materials Data Science and Reliability. His research has been showcased in Pittsburgh NPR, Scientific American, and Pittsburgh Magazine.
Director, Energy and ESG Finance
The Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service at Arizona State University
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Read bio
What are common challenges homeowners face when trying to install solar panels?
Payback periods; remaining roof-life; whether to add storage for self-consumption or net-meter; local regulations (which will determine net-metering); finding suppliers.
How will the renewable energy industry change as more people adopt solar?
It will grow, but residential is a very, very small segment of the industry and accounts for only a fraction of the investment.
What factors do you think are driving the current surge in solar energy’s popularity among homeowners?
It’s cheaper and cost competitive in many states and even more so with the IRA and various incentives.
Graham Erion, Esq., is the managing director, energy and ESG finance at the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service at ASU and vice president of M&A and structured finance at CarbonFree Technology in Toronto, Canada. While at CarbonFree, Graham has overseen the acquisition, development, and financing of a >350 MWp portfolio of over 50 separate solar PV projects in Chile. He also led the closing of an award-winning $270M USD U.S. private placement for the Chile portfolio.
Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Stanford University
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What are the main benefits of using solar energy?
Installing solar photovoltaics (PV) on your roof reduces the electricity you need to import from the grid, particularly during times of high electricity prices, in the afternoons. This becomes even more beneficial when you convert your natural gas air and/or water heater to electric heat pump air and/or water heaters (which use one-fourth the energy as gas), your gas stove to an electric induction cooktop, and your gasoline car to an electric car. Solar PV also eliminates air pollution from fossil-fuel or bioenergy electricity generation. Also, installing solar PV on your roof, particularly in new homes, may avoid the need for expensive roofing material. Rooftop PV also cools your home during hot summer days by absorbing 20% of the sunlight and converting it to electricity.
Do you think solar panels are getting more affordable?
Solar PV panels have dropped in cost substantially during the past 10 years. At the utility scale, solar PV is half the cost of new natural gas or coal. On commercial buildings, it is also less expensive than the cost of fossil fuels. On individual residential buildings, PV cost has declined as well but its savings are enormous because PV avoids the need to import high-cost electricity in the afternoon to your home and the cost of transmission and distribution. Solar PV on your roof also allows you to keep your lights on during a blackout on the grid if you also purchase a battery to store PV electricity. The best overall strategy for a homeowner in terms of saving lots of money over the long run, eliminating air pollution in your home, and supplying your own electricity and heat in a blackout is to electrify everything in your home and provide the electricity with solar PV and store the electricity in a battery. There is no need for two forms of energy in your home. That just increases the money you spend.
What are your thoughts about the advancements in solar technology?
Solar PV technologies continue to improve, resulting in the continued decline in PV prices. This holds true also for all electric appliances in an all-electric home: electric heat pumps for air and water heating and air conditioning, electric induction cooktops, electric heat pump clothes dryers, LED lights, and electric vehicles, for example.
Mark Z. Jacobson is director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. He is also a senior fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment and of the Precourt Institute for Energy. His career focuses on better understanding air pollution and global warming problems and developing large-scale clean, renewable energy solutions to them. He has published six books, including his latest, “No Miracles Needed,” and over 185 peer-reviewed journal articles. He is ranked as the No. 1 most impactful scientist in the world in the field of meteorology and atmospheric sciences and No. 6 in the field of energy among those first publishing past 1985.

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