More than twice the number of Americans - about 209,000 - work in the solar industry compared with coal and by 2020, that number will double to more than 420,000, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association.
The U.S. residential solar market has grown in 15 of the last 16 quarters. That's largely due to government incentives, such as the recently renewed solar investment tax credit (ITC) and creative financing programs like leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) that allow homeowners and businesses to install solar panels with no money down. (But they do require owners to lock into 20-year contracts.)
PPAs allow businesses or homeowners pay a fixed rate for the electricity they get from their solar panels, which is typically is 30 to 40 percent lower than what they'd pay a utility for power.
With those savings, solar power use is seeing double-digit increases annually in businesses, homes and electrical utilities. In 2016, the U.S. is expected to reach 25.6 billion watts or gigawatts of electrical generating capacity — all from converting photons from the sun into electricity. And this year, for the first time in history, solar exceeded natural gas for new energy installations.
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