2017 was a wild ride for everyone, the solar industry included. On one hand, we saw a continuation of all the positive trends that have buoyed the U.S. solar boom in recent years, including record-low solar prices, record-high levels of consumer interest in going solar, and the steady growth of solar finance. On the other hand, our industry faced unexpected political headwinds — and the biggest total solar eclipse in the U.S. in nearly a century — and came together to show our strength.
Throughout this action-packed year, we never stopped being motivated by the vision of a world powered by 100% clean energy for all — and never stopped being inspired by our partners throughout the solar industry that are bringing this vision closer to reality every single day. So, in that spirit of reflection and gratitude, here’s a rundown of the solar industry’s brightest trends from 2017 that make us optimistic for 2018!
- Global solar prices hitting previously unfathomable lows: Solar isn’t just a great deal for US homeowners, it’s a global boom being driven by costs falling faster than anyone predicted even a year ago. In 2017, the award for the most incredible solar deal went to Saudi Arabia, where bids for large-scale solar farms came in under 2 cents per kilowatt-hour — the lowest cost for any type of energy, anywhere!
- SunShot hits 2020 target 3 years early, sets new 2030 goals: The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative has funded lots of innovative solar companies — including Mosaic — and in 2017 it got to show off the fruits of its investments. U.S. solar prices have dropped so fast that they surpassed the program’s 2020 target already, leading the program to set even more ambitious targets for 2030.
- Consumer interest in solar at all-time high: Considering these rock-bottom costs, it’s no surprise that more homeowners were considering going solar than ever in 2017. Based on Google data and their own website traffic, leading solar marketplace EnergySage estimates that consumer interest grew by up to 60% overall between 2014 and 2017, and up to 150% annually over the past three years.
- Solar loans overtake leases: It’s an industry trend we’ve been following closely at Mosaic, and in 2017 it was confirmed: the majority of U.S. homeowners going solar are now opting for loan financing instead of leasing. Given the fact that loans help homeowners save up to 30% more over the life of their solar system, it was only a matter of time, and it’s a real sign of home solar finance maturing just like home and auto finance.
- Home battery storage booms: Home battery systems had their big coming out party in 2017, with over 200% growth in residential installations compared to 2016. This growth was led by California and Hawaii, where state policies — and Mosaic’s battery financing — should continue leading more and more homeowners to add storage to their solar systems in 2018.
- Solar-powered grids ride through eclipse with flying colors: In a year when fossil fuel backers tried in vain to slow down solar by claiming that it made the grid less resilient, this was particularly satisfying: in August, the first total solar eclipse in a century passed through leading solar states like California in the west and North Carolina in the east without even a hiccup.
- Nevada net metering restored after a year of controversy: Nevada was one of the top home solar markets in the US before a controversial decision by regulators in 2015 that ended net metering. Well, after two years of contentious debate — and serious muscle-flexing by the solar industry and The Hulk — regulators in September unanimously approved an order to get net metering (and solar jobs) back on track in the state.
- ITC backs only limited solar tariffs after show of strength by solar industry: In another big policy battle, 2017 saw a pair of foreign-owned manufacturers petitioning for new tariffs on solar using an obscure trade law from the 1970s. While the outcome of this case remains to be decided, the solar industry cheered in November as the International Trade Commission recommended much lower tariffs than the petitioners asked for — another sign of how the solar constituency is stronger, more united, and more effective than ever. Thanks to the Solar Energy Industries Association for leading the charge!
- 50 cities — and counting — commit to 100% renewable energy: Finally, despite those policy headwinds at the federal level, we had many, many reasons to celebrate at the local level in 2017 thanks to the #ReadyFor100 movement — which helped convince 50 cities nationwide to commit to 100% renewable energy! Regardless of whether you’re in a “red” or a “blue” state, Americans are coming together to support clean energy like never before. How’s that for an optimistic note to kick off 2018?