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These Solar Installations Have Grown 72% Each of the Last 5 Years

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Solar is growing faster than all other generating technologies. 

That's according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which found that utility-scale solar installations — those photovoltaic (PV) and thermal technology plants with capacity of at least one megawatt (MW) — grew at an average rate of 72 percent each year between 2010 and 2016. 

The chart below shows utility-scale generating capacity by type and initial operating year. 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Currently, utility-scale solar forms about two-percent of all utility-scale electric generating capacity and 0.9 percent of utility-scale generation. While two-percent may seem rather minuscule on whole, solar actually serves a much larger share of electricity demand in key markets. 

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Take California, for example. As of December 2016, California led the way in operating solar generating capacity, with 9.8 gigawatts (GW) out of a total 21.5 GW across the United States. 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

On any given day, California's midday solar output can hit around 9,000 MW, which is equivalent to the output of about 9 nuclear power plants and 35-45 percent of midday production. So, while solar may appear to be just a small slice of overall U.S. utility-scale electric generating capacity, it is actually taking on a much larger role in specific regions. 

EIA's analysis follows the 2016 Solar Market Insight report produced by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research. This year, GTM Research projects that 13.2 GW of new solar installations will come online, a 10 percent decrease from 2016. However, total installed U.S. solar capacity is expected to almost triple in the next five years. By 2022, more than 18 GW of solar will be installed each year.

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Posted: May 15, 2017