Solar energy facts and statistics 2023
Solar power is a clean, cheap and long-term energy source. Solar generation rose 23% in 2021, and the industry is expected to continue to grow over the next decade.
- Women hold 40% of full-time positions in the global solar workforce.
- Nearly 75% of homeowners state upfront cost is the main deterrent to not installing solar panel.
- The average cost to install solar panels equates to $2.95 per watt, or $29,500 for a 10kW system.
- China is the world's largest solar producer.
General solar energy statistics
Solar energy capacity continues to grow across the U.S., with over 50% of states now having 1GW or more of solar installed.
Percentage of renewable energy
- Solar contributed 45% of all new electricity-generating capacity added to the U.S. grid in the first half of 2023.
- The U.S. solar industry expects to add 32 gigawatts (GW) of new electricity-generating capacity in 2023, a growth of 52% from 2022.
- Residential solar use is expected to grow at an average of 6% annually over the next five years.
- All renewable energy sources combined generated 38% of the world’s electricity in 2021.
- Solar power accounted for 3.4% of energy generated in the U.S. in 2022.
Solar energy efficiency
The efficiency of a solar panel (stated as a percentage) is determined by the amount of sunlight reflected on the panel’s surface that’s then converted into electricity. Currently, the efficiency of solar panels is typically between 15% and 22%, with some high-efficiency solar panels extending to nearly 23%.
Solar power prices around the world can be as low as $0.01 to $0.02 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), compared with U.S. retail electricity, which averaged about $0.15 per kWh for residential consumers in 2022.
Solar industry jobs
Women hold 40% of full-time positions in the global solar workforce, far higher than the 32% share of jobs held by women across the renewable energy sector as a whole.
- As of 2022, 263,883 solar workers were employed in the U.S. solar industry across all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. This represents a 3.5% increase (8,846 new jobs) since 2021.
- Installation and construction-related jobs make up 67% of all solar energy sector employment. Other solar jobs may be held in manufacturing (14%), sales and distribution (11%) or operations and maintenance (4%).
- Unionized workers make up 10.3% of the overall solar industry workforce.
Solar capacity and production
According to the International Energy Agency, solar energy is quickly becoming the world's largest source of electricity. By 2027, solar production is expected to surpass coal by nearly 10%.
Who generates the most solar energy?
According to the most recent data, the top 10 countries that produced the most solar power (in megawatts) globally in 2021 were:
- China: 306,973
- U.S.: 95,209
- Japan: 74,191
- Germany: 58,461
- India: 49,684
- Italy: 22,698
- Australia: 19,076
- South Korea: 18,161
- Vietnam: 16,660
- Spain: 15,952
Solar contributed 45% of all new electricity-generating capacity added to the U.S. grid in the first half of 2023.
- Solar energy capacity is the maximum amount of energy that a combination of solar installations can produce at any given time. The current global solar energy capacity is 850.2 GW.
- Up to 173,000 terawatts of solar energy can hit the Earth at any given moment.
- The U.S. would need around 18.5 billion solar panels to be powered entirely by solar energy.
China has the world's largest cumulative solar energy capacity at 308.5 GW. In 2021, it also installed the most additional solar at 54.9 GW, followed by the U.S. (26.9 GW) and India (13 GW).
Newly installed capacity, 2021
|Country||Capacity in GW|
Cumulative capacity, 2021
|Country||Capacity in GW|
Characteristics of solar-powered homes in the U.S.
In 2020, 3.7% of single-family homes across the U.S. generated electricity from solar panels. The percentage varied significantly by region:
- Northeast: 4.7%
- Midwest: 1.4%
- South: 1.7%
- West: 8.9%
U.S. homes installed 1,568 megawatts of solar energy capacity in the third quarter of 2022, which was up 16% from the second quarter. About 27% of homeowners have or are in the process of installing solar panel systems, with an additional 66.5% interested in installing in the future.
Of homeowners who do not yet have solar power in their homes:
- Nearly 75% cite the upfront costs as the primary reason for not moving forward with installation.
- About 44% feel that the price of installing solar panels is too expensive and outweighs solar’s benefits.
- Over 43% decided against installation because their roof would need to be replaced, increasing the cost of installation.
Solar panels are more likely to be installed on newer homes with affluent homeowners.
- Small-scale solar panel systems are installed on 4.6% of homes built in 1980 or later, compared with 3.2% of homes built before 1980.
- Only 1.1% of homes with a household income of less than $20,000 use solar, compared with 5.7% of homes with a household income of more than $150,000.
Cost of solar panel installation
Installing solar panels on your home is a long-term investment. It takes an average of 8.7 years to see the return on your investment after solar panel installation.
That said, the cost of installing residential solar panels has dropped by approximately 70% over the past 10 years. The average cost of solar panel installation in the U.S. is $2.95 per watt, which works out to $29,500 for a 10 kW system.
Factors that impact the cost of a residential solar panel system include:
- System size
- Residence location
- Panel quality
- Panel type
- Roof type
- Labor source and installation timetable
- Permitting and interconnection
Solar energy tax breaks
The investment tax credit (ITC) is a federal solar tax credit. The ITC allows U.S. homeowners to deduct 30% of the cost of solar panel installation from their federal income taxes with no cap on its value.
The average cost of solar panel system installation without the ITC is $29,500. When factoring in the ITC’s 30% income tax deduction, that average cost drops to $20,650.
Other state and local incentives may also be available depending on where you live, such as additional tax credits, performance-based incentives and grants.
What does the future look like for solar?
Projections indicate that the trend toward solar energy won’t slow anytime soon.
- It’s expected that 32 GW of solar energy capacity will come online this year in the U.S.
- Annual growth in the solar energy industry is anticipated to average 15% over the next five years.
- Residential solar use is expected to grow at an average of 6% annually over the next five years. Commercial solar use is projected to increase by 8% annually.
- Long-term tax incentives and manufacturing provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act drive the expectation for solar energy growth.
Solar vs. fossil fuels
A comparison of solar energy versus energy from fossil fuels reveals that, while solar is far more sustainable, its use is still eclipsed by fossil fuels.
- Fossil fuels are the source of 80% of the world’s energy.
- Solar energy is significantly more efficient than energy derived from fossil fuels. Producing and setting up a solar installation requires just 4% of the installation’s energy capacity, compared with 11% of a coal-fired power station’s capacity.
- Solar panels are constructed primarily with recyclable materials. About 75% of a solar panel’s weight is made up of glass.
- The use of solar energy emits a significantly lower amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) than the use of energy from fossil fuels.
- Burning coal emits more than 17 times the CO2 emitted by solar energy generation.
- Power sector CO2 emissions rose by 7% in 2021, hitting a record high (3% over the previous record in 2018), with emissions higher than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
How efficient are solar panels?
The efficiency of solar panels is generally between 15% and 22%, with some high-efficiency solar panels extending to nearly 23%. Solar power prices around the world can be as low as $0.01 to $0.02/kWh, compared with U.S. retail electricity prices, which averaged $0.15/kWh for residential consumers in 2022.
Is solar energy a good career?
Solar energy is a fast-growing industry, and the number of solar energy jobs in the U.S. grew by 3.5% from 2021 to 2022. The majority (67%) of solar energy jobs are in installation and construction, but other areas of solar energy employment include manufacturing (14%), sales and distribution (11%) and operations and maintenance (4%). The solar energy industry is expected to grow an average of 15% annually over the next five years.
What percent of U.S. energy comes from solar?
In 2022, solar power accounted for 3.4% of the energy generated in the U.S. Solar power contributed 45% of all new electricity-generating capacity added to the U.S. grid in the first half of 2023.
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