How Much Of The Us Energy Is Solar?

How much of the US energy is solar?

Solar energy is becoming an increasingly important source of renewable power across the globe. The energy from the sun that reaches the Earth is enormous – more in 1 hour than the world uses in 1 year. Solar energy is a clean, quiet, abundant, and renewable source of power that has many benefits. Some key reasons why solar energy is so important include:

– It’s sustainable and unlimited – the sun provides enough energy in 1 hour to supply our planet’s energy needs for 1 year.

– It’s a clean energy source that doesn’t pollute the air or environment.

– It can help combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

– It can provide energy independence and security for countries and regions.

– It’s technology is constantly improving and getting cheaper.

– It can be deployed at small and large scales, in remote areas or dense cities.

– It creates green jobs and boosts local economies.

This overview highlights why solar power is already an important source of energy, and why it will continue growing as a critical renewable resource for our future.

Current Share of Solar

In 2022, solar energy accounted for 4.7% of total U.S. electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) [1]. This represents a nearly 21% increase from 2021, when solar made up 3.9% of generation. The majority of solar generation comes from solar photovoltaics, which accounted for 3.3% of total U.S. electricity in 2022. The remaining solar generation comes from concentrated solar thermal power, which accounted for just 0.1% in 2022.

Overall, renewable energy sources including hydroelectric, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass accounted for about 20% of U.S. electricity generation in 2022, with solar making up almost one-quarter of that share. The rest of U.S. electricity generation is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels like natural gas and coal, which together accounted for approximately 60% in 2022.

Growth of Solar

The solar energy industry in the United States has experienced rapid growth over the past decade. According to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), total installed solar capacity has increased more than 50-fold from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to over 100 GW in 2021. This represents an average annual growth rate of 42% over that time period.

Much of this growth has been driven by falling costs. The average price of a solar panel has declined by over 70% in the last 10 years, making solar energy cost competitive with conventional energy sources. In addition, supportive policies like renewable portfolio standards and federal tax credits have spurred adoption of solar.

The SEIA projects that solar capacity will more than double over the next 5 years, with annual installations reaching 30 GW in 2025. This continued rapid expansion will be necessary for solar to play a major role in reducing carbon emissions from the electricity sector. However, supply chain issues and rising panel prices slowed growth in 2021. Overcoming these challenges will be key for solar to achieve its full potential.


State Differences

The adoption of solar energy varies greatly across different states in the US. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the top 10 states for installed solar capacity as of Q2 2022 are California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Georgia [1]. California leads by a wide margin, with over 30,000 MW of installed solar capacity, while Texas comes in second with around 15,000 MW. Some of the leading solar states like California, Arizona, and Nevada benefit from abundant sunlight which improves solar panel efficiency. States with high electricity costs like California, Hawaii and Massachusetts also have strong solar adoption since rooftop solar can reduce utility bills. Government policies and incentives at the state level play a major role as well. For example, states like New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts have offered robust incentives, net metering policies and Renewable Portfolio Standards to encourage solar growth.

On the other hand, some states lag far behind the leaders in solar adoption. As of Q2 2022, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Alaska have the least installed solar capacity according to SEIA data [2]. Lack of strong sunlight, low electricity prices, and insufficient policy support contribute to the slow solar growth in these states. Overall, state policies, electricity prices, and solar resources largely dictate the varying adoption of solar across different parts of the US.

Residential vs Utility Solar

Residential solar systems generated nearly 42,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity in 2022, according to the data from Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) [SEIA Solar Research]. By comparison, utility-scale solar systems generated around 140,000 GWh. So residential solar accounted for approximately 23% of total solar generation, while utility-scale solar made up the remaining 77%.

The amount of residential solar generation has been growing rapidly in recent years. From 2018 to 2022, residential solar generation increased by 181%, compared to just 16% growth for utility-scale solar, according to RatedPower [RatedPower]. The average home solar system can generate around 11,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, meaning the 42,000 GWh from residential in 2022 was enough to power over 3.4 million homes [USA Facts].

While residential solar currently makes up a minority share of total solar generation, continued strong growth could lead it to make up a larger portion of the overall solar market in the coming years.

Solar Potential

The United States has tremendous potential for solar energy generation across the country. According to research from Portland State University, the highest levels of solar irradiation occur in the southwest states like California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona [1]. However, even northern states receive adequate solar resources for solar PV installations. One analysis by VividMaps estimates that installing solar panels on residential and commercial rooftops in urban areas alone could meet 39% of total US electricity demand [2]. With utility-scale solar farms also generating electricity, the total technical potential for solar power in the US is enormous.

Realizing the full solar potential would require massive investments in solar infrastructure across rooftops, parking lots, brownfields, and open spaces. But the rewards could also be substantial – reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving public health, creating jobs, and providing affordable electricity through an abundant domestic energy source.


While solar energy has seen impressive growth in recent years, there are still some challenges and barriers to even greater adoption of solar power. Some of the key challenges include:

High upfront costs – The installation of solar panels and related equipment can be quite expensive for homeowners and businesses. The upfront investment can deter some potential customers, even though solar often pays for itself over time through energy savings.

Policy uncertainty – Changes to net metering policies and rate structures in some states have created uncertainty about the economics of home solar systems. For example, Nevada enacted less favorable net metering rates in 2016 which disrupted the state’s solar industry (source).

Grid integration – As solar provides an increasing share of electricity, utilities face technical challenges in integrating large amounts of intermittent solar generation. Upgrades may be needed to maintain grid reliability.

Lack of access for renters and apartments – Rooftop solar is much less accessible to renters, apartment dwellers, and low-income households. Options like community solar help provide access but have limited availability.

Permitting and regulations – Local permitting rules and inspection processes can vary greatly, complicating installations and raising costs. Streamlining solar regulations can help boost adoption.

Policies and Incentives

The U.S. federal government offers incentives to support the adoption of solar energy. The most significant incentive is the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The ITC allows homeowners to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar energy system from their federal taxes through 2022. This credit will rise to 30% for systems placed in service by the end of 2032 before being reduced. (Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar)

Many U.S. states also offer additional incentives like rebates and tax credits for installing solar panels. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency provides a comprehensive listing of solar incentives available in each state. (What rebates and incentives are available for solar energy?)

Between federal and state incentives, homeowners can reduce the upfront cost of installing a solar energy system by thousands of dollars. Policies like net metering also help solar panel owners receive bill credits for excess electricity sent back to the grid. Together, these incentives aim to accelerate the adoption of solar across the U.S.

Future Outlook

The future for solar energy is bright. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the solar industry has set a new goal to achieve 30% of total electricity generation in the U.S. by 2030, which would require roughly five times as much solar deployment compared to today.1 With supportive policies and incentives, SEIA believes this stretch goal is achievable. Globally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that renewables will contribute 80% of new power generation capacity through 2030, with solar alone accounting for over 60% of that renewable growth.2

Key factors that will drive future growth include continued cost reductions, supportive government policies, increased corporate procurement, community solar growth, and utility-scale project development. As solar technology improves and costs decline, it becomes increasingly cost-competitive with conventional power sources. With supportive policies like clean energy standards and carbon pricing, along with tax credits and financing programs, solar adoption is expected to accelerate. Major corporations have also made clean energy commitments that will necessitate large amounts of solar procurement. Overall, analyst projections indicate solar will likely account for 20-30% of total U.S. electricity generation by 2030.


In conclusion, while solar energy currently accounts for only a small percentage of US energy production, it has been growing rapidly in recent years. This growth has been driven by falling costs as well as supportive policies and incentives. Solar energy holds great potential to provide clean, renewable power across the country. With continued technological improvements and the right policy environment, solar can play a major role in transitioning the US electricity system away from fossil fuels and towards sustainability. Widespread adoption of solar energy will bring many benefits, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved public health, and increased energy security and resilience. Realizing the full potential of solar will require overcoming remaining challenges around intermittency, grid integration, and access to financing. Overall, the future is bright for solar energy in the US, and increased use of this abundant renewable resource can create jobs, reduce environmental impacts, and help build the clean energy system of the future.

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