Sustainable Energy

US has a record-breaking year for solar power

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Technicians install solar panels on a house in Mission Viejo, Calif.
Mario Anzuoni | Reuters

The U.S. solar industry installed 7,286 megawatts of solar power in 2015, according to data from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The figures, announced Monday, represent an increase of over 1,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic installations compared to 2014. Photovoltaic technology is able to directly convert sunlight into electrical energy.

According to the data, solar beat natural gas capacity additions for the first time ever, with 29.5 percent of all new electric generating capacity met by solar power in 2015.

Harvesting solar, 6km in the air

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the SEIA, described 2015 as a "monumental year for the U.S. solar industry." Resch added that the next few years would see, "solar continue to reach unprecedented heights as our nation makes a shift toward a carbon-free source of energy that also serves as an economic and job-creating engine."

The potential of solar power as a clean energy source is significant. In 2014 the International Energy Agency stated that the sun could be the planet's biggest source of electricity by 2050.

In the U.S., the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy says that in states such as California, Hawaii, Texas and Minnesota, solar electricity is now "economically competitive with conventional energy sources."