solarBy 2017, rooftop solar could be as cheap as local electricity in more than half the United States. 

That’s according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which has released a series of infographics tracking the rise of American solar power.

Currently, 11 states (and Washington, D.C.) can take advantage of a federal tax credit that makes solar panel installation as affordable as buying electricity from the grid. According to the map below, 17 states could be at the same tipping point in three years’ time.


Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

In a report released last month, the UCS notes that prices for rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems have dropped 29 percent since 2010. The decrease is due to several factors: reductions in technology prices, improvements in financing and a steadily growing network of solar installers and financial partners. In states with the most progressive solar policies, tax credits and other subsidies can reduce the cost of a rooftop system to under $10,000.

This upward trend is reinforced by the quarterly report of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which shows a 21 percent growth in PV installations over Q2 2013. Cumulative installed solar capacity is now up to 15,900 MW in the U.S.

In all, the amount of solar PV power installed in the U.S. grew 485 percent between 2010 and 2013. The most growth has been witnessed in small-scale installations (e.g. rooftop), but large-scale PV systems and concentrating solar power systems (like the Mojave’s Ivanpah plant) actually provide the majority of the nation’s boom in solar capacity.

The credit for the boom is largely due to the solar Investment Tax Credit, which SEIA persuaded the fed to extend past 2008. The ITC reduces solar costs 30 percent on residential and commercial properties, but will expire at the end of 2016 without further extension.

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