Solar power in the United States

Solar power in the United States includes utility-scale solar power plants as well as local distributed generation, mostly from rooftop photovoltaics. As of the end of 2017, the United States had over 50 gigawatts (GW) of installed photovoltaic capacity. [1] In the twelve months through December 2018, utility scale solar power generated 66.6 terawatt-hours (TWh), 1.66% of total U.S. electricity. During the same time period total solar generation, including estimated small scale Generation photovoltaic generation, was 96.1 TWh, 2.30% of total U.S. electricity.[2] In terms of total cumulative installed capacity, by year end 2017 the United States ranked 2nd in the world behind China. In 2016, 39% of all new electricity generation capacity in the country came from solar, more than any other source and ahead of natural gas (29%).[3] By 2015, solar employment had overtaken oil and gas as well as coal employment in the United States.[4] In 2016, more than 260,000 Americans were employed in the solar industry.[5]

The United States conducted much early research in photovoltaics and concentrated solar power. It is among the top countries in the world in electricity generated by the Sun and several of the world’s largest utility-scale installations are located in the desert Southwest. The oldest solar power plant in the world is the 354-megawatt (MW) SEGS thermal power plant, in California.[6] The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a solar thermal power project in the California Mojave Desert, 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Las Vegas, with a gross capacity of 392 MW.[7] The 280 MW Solana Generating Station is a solar power plant near Gila BendArizona, about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Phoenix, completed in 2013. When commissioned it was the largest parabolic trough plant in the world and the first U.S. solar plant with molten salt thermal energy storage.[8]

There are plans to build many other large solar plants in the United States. Many states have set individual renewable energy goals with solar power being included in various proportions. Hawaii plans 100% renewable-sourced electricity by 2045.[9] Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation requiring California’s utilities to obtain 100 percent of their electricity from zero-carbon sources by the end of 2045 (including 60% renewable energy sources by 2030)