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October 13, 2015 | U.S. Smashing Solar Records in 2015

For the past few years, temperatures have been steadily rising, and the United States has seen records broken over and over again as the mercury keeps climbing during the spring and summer months. The summer of 2015 was the hottest on record for portions of the Pacific Northwest, and even where the temperatures didn't break records, the heat still pounded the populace. Fortunately, temperatures aren't the only records the U.S. has been setting in 2015, and the second set of records may actually lead to reductions in air pollution, greenhouse gases, and the march of global warming.

U.S. Solar Capacity Booming, According to Reports

Solar energy has been picking up steam in the United States for the past several years, thanks to a perfect storm of lower manufacturing costs, lower installation costs, increased financing, and a desire for steady, less-expensive power costs. This has resulted in more solar capacity in the U.S. than ever before, and the numbers reported by Solar Daily are pretty impressive.

According to The Solar Energy Industries Association, assisted by GTM Research, residential solar power in the United States (the sort you get from putting solar panels on a house's roof) grew by 70 percent, to around 473 megawatts. The same report also stated that 10 states across the country have installed more than 10 new megawatts of solar power capacity during the second quarter in 2015. That's pretty impressive, considering that the amount of new power installed in the same period in 2013 was about 4 megawatts.

Generating more green energy is good news, but the reports didn't stop there. According to a survey taken by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, it seems that the price of photovoltaic power is dropping even further. The average cost of a residential system dropped about 9 percent, which means that solar power is still getting cheaper for homeowners who want to be at least partially energy independent. For small, non-residential solar power systems (the kind set up by businesses to help cover their own energy costs) the news was even better: a 10 percent price decline. For those setting up large-scale operations to capture a lot of sun and produce a lot of power, the average cost dipped down over 20 percent.

If you toss in the more than 150,000 jobs that solar power added to America's economy, then it seems there is nothing but good news for solar.

What Do These Numbers Mean for the Future?

Taken as a snap shot, all those numbers represent a lot of progress. Homeowners in the U.S. are generating more power than ever before, and they're paying less to do it. The same is true of larger, non-residential solar power setups, which are also on the rise. More solar for less money means that, overall, there will be fewer fossil fuels burned and fewer greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

Those are all good things. If you combine this progress with other recent news, such as California governor Jerry Brown's promise that 50 percent of the state's energy will come from renewable sources by the year 2030, or how Burlington, Vermont, has already gone completely green, it paints a broader picture of how increases in solar power fit into the greater green energy puzzle.

Renewable sources of energy will, sooner or later, become the standard both in the United States and around the world. They're cleaner, they're safer for the environment, and — the final nail in the coffin for fossil fuels — green energy is getting cheaper. What started as a desire to protect the environment and stop global warming has joined with the market's desire for cheap, dependable energy. The result is that the coming decades are likely to see big, big changes in how we power our lives.