Installing solar panels. (Image Credit. Oregon of Transportation / Flickr)

Installing solar panels. (Image Credit. Oregon of Transportation / Flickr)

Solar power installations accounted for 32 percent of all new electrical capacity in the U.S. in 2014. This marks the second year in a row that solar installations beat out installations of both coal and wind power, according to a new report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The report is just loaded with positive solar stats. A few highlights:

  • Solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity grew by 30 percent year-over-year
  • More than one billion watts of new solar capacity were installed in America’s commercial, residential and utility markets
  • Solar capacity overall has grown 12 times since 2009

Last year was also the first time that U.S. residential solar capacity exceeded one gigawatt (one billion watts). “Residential continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the U.S.,” the report states, “with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50 percent annual growth.”

Rhone Resch, the CEO of SEIA, has said that this “remarkable growth” is due in large part to the federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). “Today, the U.S. solar industry has more employees than tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter combined,” he said in a statement. “Since the ITC was passed in 2006, more than 150,000 solar jobs have been created in America, and $66 billion has been invested in solar installations nationwide.”

The Solar Foundation has also credited the ITC as one of the three major factors that contributed to the U.S. solar industry growing by over 21 percent last year. In a survey of 2,000 solar-related companies, 73 percent reported that the ITC “significantly improved” their business.

How long this solar boom will last is unknown, however, as the ITC is set to expire in 2017, which will knock the subsidy down from 30 percent to 10 percent if Congress does not act.

Yet according to a recent (and lengthy) report by Deutsche Bank, solar has already hit grid parity with conventional generation in half of all countries it surveyed. They also predict that solar will hit grid parity in all U.S. states by 2016, which may influence Congress’ decision to extend the tax credit.

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