Solar Power Faces Uncertain Future in the U.S. 0

Visitors check out First Solar's array of photovoltaic panels outside of San Luis Obispo, California.
Visitors check out First Solar’s array of photovoltaic panels outside of San Luis Obispo, California.

Dear EarthTalk: What’s going to happen to the U.S. solar industry when the federal solar investment tax credit expires next year?                                 — Victoria Chase, Washington, DC

In the U.S., a new solar project was installed every three minutes in 2014, and jobs in the solar industry rose from 15,000 employees in 2005 to nearly 174,000 today. This substantial growth is in large part thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005’s 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for commercial and residential solar energy systems. In 2007, after only one year of implementation, the ITC led to the doubling of installed solar electric capacity. In 2008, Congress passed an eight-year extension of the ITC, allowing solar to become the fastest growing energy source in the U.S. Solar has also become much more affordable: The average installed cost per watt has dropped from around $7.50 in 2009 to $2.89 in 2013.

 

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