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Solar Powers All New U.S. Electricity in March

Spring hasn't felt terribly sunny here in South Dakota, but it has for the solar power industry. The Solar Energy Industries Association notes with pride that every megawatt of new electricity generation capacity built in March comes from solar energy. They note that their industry "employs 119,000 workers throughout the country. That’s a 13.2 percent growth over 2011’s jobs numbers, making solar one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the nation."

But solar still has a long way to go to catch up with other sources of electricity in the United States:

Total Installed Operating Generating Capacity, U.S. Electricity, by source, FERC: Office of Energy Products, Energy Infrastructure Update for March 2013
FERC: Office of Energy Products, Energy Infrastructure Update for March 2013

Solar photovoltaic technology currently produces 0.44% of electricity in the United States. That makes solar #8 in meeting our electrical demand, behind coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower, wind, oil, and biomass, and just ahead of geothermal steam. That 0.44% lags significantly behind Germany's 6.2% (despite getting much less sun than the U.S.) and Spain's 10%. And it's small potatoes compared to the 29% the World Wildlife Fund and envisions as part of a perfectly feasible goal of nearly 100% renewable power by 2050.


  1. Roger Beranek 2013.04.14

    So it will only take 35 years at13% growth to get to 31%, assuming our r electrical Ness don't change. And that might happen a lot faster once solar panels actually become cost effective.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.14

    My penultimate link says solar prices are dropping fast. Solar power is already competitive with other sources in some markets and is in track to reach that level here by 2020, says that source.

  3. G-Man 2013.04.14

    As one who has grown up in coal country, I still support alternative energy production, especially wind produced energy. However, I do realize that coal still plays a huge role in electricity generation for the United States and other major industrial countries, to include China. We can not simply shut down all the coal plants and expect our energy demands to be met. That would lead to not enough electricity to meet demand and our prices would rise dramatically. No, coal is going to be needed in the larger scheme of things for the next 3 generations (at least). I still strongly support building upon our wind farms and solar cell technology. We need to invest and continue to diversify our electric system while realizing the continued importance of coal production with in that system.

  4. G-Man 2013.04.14

    For the record, I grew up in what some call the "Powder River Basin" of Southeastern Montana. My county's (Rosebud) economy is built on three things: 1) Coal mining & power generation (Colstrip), 2) BNSF Railroad that ships the coal across the country, and 3) Cattle ranching. I was a little disheartened after the Sierra Club and other radical left groups successfully intimidated (through threats of legal action) investors to pull-out of a project that would entail shipping Montana and Wyoming coal through Oregon for export from Coos Bay to the Orient. Instead, Washington State has successfully signed on to this massive project that will no doubt bring jobs to our neighbors to the north, along with large tax revenue for Washington. Oregon lost out on this deal.

  5. Michael Black 2013.04.14

    We can make the biggest difference by conserving energy. Let your car coast to the stop sign instead of braking hard at the last minute. Turn the thermostat down at night. Put weatherstripping on your doors. Consolidate your trips.

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