Lost and Found: Solar Energy

Top Ten Solar States

Top Ten Solar States in the U.S. (Hawaii not pictured).

Is the U.S. a bigger powerhouse in solar energy than previously thought?

New data presented by Greentech Solar states that the U.S. generates a lot more solar energy than data initially indicated! This new research shows that the U.S. government may be underestimating the amount of solar energy that we generate each year.

Where was all the missing solar energy?

The Energy Information Association (EIA), the U.S. agency responsible for collecting energy data, largely depends on data from big, utility-scale solar power plants. As a result, the EIA missed 9.2 gigawatts of energy generated by residential and non-utility business sources. That accounts for nearly half the total photovoltaic energy (PV) in the U.S.

We now know that the U.S. produced 30.4 million megawatt-hours of solar energy in 2014. That’s enough to power 16 states!

Why does this matter?

Including solar energy produced by residences and businesses is vital because EIA’s data are used by legislators assessing renewable energy policies such as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC),  the EPA’s renewable energy goals, and future investments in solar power. It also means that more states are contributing to solar energy production than we previously thought.

According to Energy.gov, the cost of rooftop solar panels dropped 50% between 2011 and 2014.

If less than one percent of U.S. land were equipped with solar panels, we could power the entire country with solar energy, and lower pricing means that’s increasingly possible! See this interactive map to see which states are already leading the way.

Teachers’ Toolkits

Nat Geo: What is solar energy?

Nat Geo: Solar Energy article

Nat Geo: The Great Energy Challenge

Map Data: SEIA Cumulative Solar Capacity Installed

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