2016: The year solar panels became cheaper than fossil fuels

The U.S. added about 125 solar panels every minute in 2016. This is double the pace of 2015.


It’s finally happened. The renewable energy future has arrived.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), installing new solar panels is cheaper than a comparable investment in coal, natural gas, or other options. Solar and wind is now the same price or cheaper than fossil fuels in more than 30 countries.

According to Michael Drexler, head of development investing at the WEF, solar is “Not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns.”

Some quick facts about clean energy from 2016:

Utilities added 9.5 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity to the U.S. grid, making solar the top fuel source for the first time in a calendar year. 

The U.S. added about 125 solar panels every minute in 2016. This is double the pace of 2015. 

New distributed solar on homes and business pushed total capacity to 11.2 gigawats.

The price of solar in 2016 is 30% of what it was in 2010.

99% of new electricity generation added in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2016 came from renewable energy sources. 64% of that was from solar.

The U.S. is #3 in the world for annual solar power installations. China leads at #1.

The U.S. solar energy industry added more jobs in 2015 that the U.S. oil and gas extraction and pipeline industries added combined. 

Prices for solar are expected to fall to half the price of electricity from coal or natural gas within a decade or two. This will hopefully break down the political barriers that are keeping more people from investing in clean energy. 


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Ruth Milka started as an intern for NationofChange in 2015. Known for her thoughtful and thorough approach, Ruth is committed to shedding light on the intersection of environmental issues and their impact on human communities. Her reporting consistently highlights the urgency of environmental challenges while emphasizing the human stories at the heart of these issues. Ruth’s work is driven by a passion for truth and a dedication to informing the public about critical global matters concerning the environment and human rights.