Why Is Solar Energy So Common?

Solar energy has experienced exponential growth over the past decade, with solar panels and installations spreading rapidly across rooftops, fields, and deserts around the world. Once considered a niche or alternative energy source, solar power has now firmly entered the mainstream as costs have plunged and many countries seek to ramp up renewable energy. This dramatic rise of solar reflects a unique alignment of falling costs, government incentives, environmental benefits, energy independence, job creation, grid resiliency, public support, and major improvements in technology that have made solar an economical and appealing energy solution.

Declining Costs

The cost of solar panel systems has declined dramatically over the past few decades. In the 1970s, solar panels cost over $70 per watt. Now, costs have fallen below $1 per watt in many parts of the world. This exponential decrease in costs is a major reason why solar has expanded so rapidly. As solar prices have fallen, the levelized cost of energy from solar has become cheaper than fossil fuel sources like coal and natural gas in most regions. The main factor behind declining solar costs has been economies of scale enabled by growing global demand. As more solar panels are manufactured and installed around the world each year, production volumes increase and manufacturers improve efficiencies. This leads to lower material and labor costs per panel. Many experts expect the cost of solar energy to continue dropping in the years ahead as technologies like thin-film PV and improved inverters reduce costs further.

solar panel costs have declined exponentially in recent decades.

Government Incentives

Government incentives at the federal, state and local levels have played a major role in the growth of solar energy. Tax credits, rebates, and net metering policies have made solar power more affordable and attractive for homeowners and businesses.

The federal government offers a 26% tax credit for installing residential solar energy systems. This credit allows homeowners to recoup 26% of the cost of installation. Many state governments also provide additional tax credits and rebates beyond the federal credit.

Net metering policies, adopted by many states, allow solar panel owners to get credit for excess electricity they generate but don’t use. This makes it easier for homeowners with solar panels to reduce their overall electricity bills.

Local governments have also created solar incentives in the form of property tax breaks and solar renewable energy credits. All of these incentives at various levels of government have played an instrumental role in solar energy growth by defraying costs.

Environmental Benefits

Solar energy is a clean, renewable source of power that does not produce any greenhouse gases or toxic pollutants. Burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas for electricity releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Solar panels produce electricity without any emissions, reducing the carbon footprint of energy usage. Widespread adoption of solar could help mitigate global warming and meet climate goals.

In addition to being emissions-free, solar energy does not create any air or water pollution. Fossil fuel power plants emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide that harm human health and the environment. Nuclear plants produce radioactive waste. Solar panels generate electricity through photovoltaic effect without any toxic byproducts. The environmental advantages make solar power an attractive alternative.

Solar energy has minimal impacts on the land compared to other energy sources that require extensive mining or drilling. Once installed, solar farms take up space but do not degrade the surrounding habitat. As a clean source of renewable power, solar energy offers critical environmental benefits over conventional electricity generation.

Energy Independence

Adopting solar energy allows for more self-reliance and independence from the traditional electrical grid. With solar panels on rooftops or solar farms supplying power, communities and homeowners can generate their own electricity. This reduces the need to purchase as much power from utility companies and the grid. There is less reliance on external energy sources that are subject to price fluctuations or distribution issues. Solar energy gives consumers and communities more control over their electricity supply and future. It provides energy security and insulation from potential disruptions. The shift towards decentralized and distributed solar generation is empowering for many homeowners and localities.

Job Creation

The solar energy industry has experienced tremendous job growth in recent years. As the costs of solar panels and installation have declined, the demand for solar has skyrocketed. This has led to rapid job creation throughout the solar value chain. From manufacturing to installation to operations and maintenance, solar is now creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, over 250,000 Americans work in solar – more than double the number in 2012. Projections show that total solar employment could double again by 2025. The solar workforce spans all 50 states, with California, Florida, Texas, New York, and Massachusetts currently seeing the most job creation. Solar jobs pay well too, with average annual wages above the national median wage. With continued technological improvements and cost declines, solar energy will become even more cost competitive, driving further demand and long-term job growth. The solar industry provides an economic boost while also helping us transition to a clean energy future.

Grid Resiliency

Local solar energy systems can provide power during grid outages caused by severe weather, cyberattacks, accidents or other disruptions. This makes the grid more resilient overall. When paired with batteries, solar panels create “microgrids” that operate independently. After major storms and disasters that knock out the main grid, buildings with solar and storage may be the only places with electricity. Some cities are strategically installing community solar and storage sites to keep emergency facilities operating if the larger grid goes down.

Rather than transporting electricity over long distances, local solar feeds power directly into homes and businesses. This reduces strain on transmission lines which are vulnerable to failures. Areas with high solar penetration maintain electric service more effectively when problems occur. The decentralized nature of small-scale solar means grid disruptions affect fewer customers.

In addition, solar energy reduces peak demand which lowers stress on the overall system during periods of heavy usage. With climate change bringing more intense storms, heatwaves and wildfires, a resilient decentralized grid will be crucial in the future. Local renewable energy projects make communities and critical infrastructure like hospitals, fire stations and shelters better prepared to withstand outages.

Public Support

The use of solar energy enjoys high public support across the United States and other countries. A 2019 Pew Research Center poll found that an overwhelming majority of Americans (89%) favored more solar panel farms. This included broad majorities of both Republicans (74%) and Democrats (94%). Public approval has only increased over time; surveys conducted in 2016 and 2013 found support at 73% and 79%, respectively.

The high level of public support for solar energy stems from several factors. First, solar is seen as benefiting the environment and the climate. The technology is clean and renewable unlike fossil fuels. Second, many perceive solar as creating more jobs and helping the economy. The solar industry is indeed a major employer. Finally, utilizing the sun appeals to people’s desire for energy independence and national security.

Strong public backing provides momentum for solar adoption and encourages policymakers to enact pro-solar policies like tax credits and renewable portfolio standards. The demand for solar is unlikely to slow given the high favorability ratings among the general public.

Improved Technology

One of the key drivers behind the growth of solar energy is the continuous improvements being made to solar technology. Both solar photovoltaic panels and energy storage batteries have seen major leaps in efficiency and reductions in cost over the past decade.

Today’s solar panels convert sunlight into electricity at efficiency rates of over 20%, compared to less than 10% for panels in the early 2000s. New solar cell designs and manufacturing techniques have enabled these significant gains.

Similarly, lithium-ion batteries that are used to store solar energy for use when the sun isn’t shining have fallen dramatically in price as production has scaled up. Costs have dropped more than 85% since 2010.

Inverters, which convert the DC power generated by solar panels into usable AC power, have also become lighter, smaller, and more efficient. Microinverters can now optimize each individual panel’s output.

As solar panels, batteries, and other system components continue to improve and integrate more seamlessly, the technology becomes increasingly appealing for widespread adoption by homeowners, businesses, and utilities.


In summary, the primary reasons for the commonality and rapid growth of solar energy are decreasing costs due to technological improvements, environmental benefits and public support for clean energy, job creation, energy independence, grid resiliency, and government policies. Significant declines in the cost of solar photovoltaic panels along with other system components have made solar energy more affordable and economically competitive with conventional power. Public concerns about climate change and support for renewable energy has also driven growth. Government subsidies, tax credits, renewable portfolio standards, and net metering programs have also played a major role in encouraging solar adoption. In addition, solar helps create green jobs, reduces dependence on imported fuels, and can support the grid with distributed generation. Technological advances will continue to accelerate growth as solar becomes an increasingly cost-effective energy source. With solar energy’s many economic and environmental advantages, it is likely to keep growing as a mainstream energy source.

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