Solar jumped 17% in 2015, topping natural gas

The United States installed 7,286 megawatts of solar power in 2015, the largest total ever and a 17 percent jump over 2014.

In another first, solar additions topped the expansion of the nation’s natural-gas capacity, with solar adding 29.5 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the United States in 2015.

Total U.S. solar installations have now topped 25 gigawatts, up from just 2 gigawatts in 2010. The almost 7.3 gigawatts installed in 2015 is 8.6 times the capacity installed in 2010, pointing to sustained expansion, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association.

California, North Carolina, Nevada, Massachusetts and New York led the expansion, with the Empire State climbing from seventh to fifth in annual capacity growth. However, solar power continues to diversify geographically, with 13 states installing more than 100 megawatts each in 2015. The fastest movers: Utah, which jumped from 23rd to seventh place in the rankings, and Georgia, which moved from 16th to eighth.

The residential solar market grew 66 percent year-over-year and eclipsed the 2-gigawatt mark for the first time in 2015. The residential solar segment now represents 29 percent of the total U.S. solar market — its largest share since 2009. The non-residential market broke the 1-gigawatt mark, but remained roughly flat year-over-year.

The SEIA and GreenTech Research plan to release a full report on the year’s solar market on March 9. For more information about the report, visit here.