Report Describes Steps to Building a Thriving Solar Industry

Report Describes Steps to Building a Thriving Solar Industry

A new landmark research report outlines what would be required to move solar energy beyond a small, niche market into a thriving industry able to contribute significantly to America’s energy and national security needs.

The Solar Opportunity Assessment Report (SOAR), released today, examines what is needed to grow the U.S. solar industry -- incrementally into a thriving industry, as well as through “bold audacious measures that could dramatically accelerate the transition to a clean-energy future.”

The report was produced by the nonprofit Solar Catalyst Group, a project of Co-op America, and Clean Edge, Inc., a leading research and consulting firm focused on clean-energy technologies. SOAR is based on interviews with more than 30 leading PV manufacturers, system integrators, and industry experts, as well as on additional research. Participants in the survey included major solar companies such as BP Solar, Evergreen Solar, PowerLight, Sharp, and Shell Solar, as well as major trade associations, current and past government officials, and leading consultants.

The free report can be downloaded at www.solarcatalyst.org and www.cleanedge.com.

According to the report, while new installations for solar PV systems have experienced a compounded annual growth rate of 24% over the past decade in the U.S., the installed base remains frustratingly small. “This report illuminates what the current industry players think it will take to sustain or double current total cumulative installation projections by 2025, as well as outlining a far more ambitious path of capturing ten percent of total U.S. electricity production by 2025,” explains Alisa Gravitz, founder of Solar Catalyst Group and executive director of Co-op America Foundation.

SOAR identifies a number of key challenges to growing the U.S. solar marketplace, including:
  • its small production scale, which keeps quantities low and prices high;
  • on-again-off-again government funding of solar research and development;
  • a dearth of financing solutions, pricing solar out of reach of most users; and
  • a lack of standardized, plug-and-play systems that would greatly reduce the complexity and cost of designing and installing a solar-energy system.

    The report focuses on three pathways for solar's future over the next quarter-century: Current Growth, Accelerated Growth, and Hypergrowth, and describes the challenges and opportunities within each. The report identifies the three key levers of the solar industry: technology, policy, and finance and three cross-cutting strategies that could help bring solar to scale: education, standardization, and market development and aggregation.

    SOAR highlights what it would take to pull the various levers and coordinate the various strategies in order to double projected PV installations from 35 gigawatts to 70 gigawatts by 2025. The report also outlines an even grander vision dubbed SHINE -- Solar High-Impact National Energy -- Project. The SHINE Project calls for 290 gigawatts of cumulative installed PV in the U.S. by 2025, providing 10% of total U.S. electricity consumption.

    The Solar Catalyst Group is a nonprofit consortium of business, government, investors, labor, and environmental and community groups and individuals working to catalyze the solar energy portion of a renewable energy future by creating a mass market for solar PV. Its mission is to “harness market forces to dramatically lower the price and accelerate the growth and development of solar energy around the world in a way that aligns energy needs with sound business practices, economic development, environmental protection, and social equity.” The Solar Catalyst Group is a project of Co-op America Foundation,, the national nonprofit which advances marketplace solutions for social and environmental problems.