How Solar PV works
Solar cells, also called solar photovoltaic (PV), convert sunlight directly into electricity. The panels are assembled with different semi-conductor plates. When sunlight strikes the panels, electrons are “knocked loose” and move from one plate to the other - creating an electric flow.
Growth of Solar PV
The use of solar has grown rapidly in the United States in the last decade. In 2008, there was a total of 1.2 gigawatts of installed solar capacity. By June of 2018, that capacity has grown to 58.3 gigawatts - a year-over-year compounded growth of 48% for the decade. According to the US Department of Energy, the solar market is projected to continue growing rapidly, from an estimated 10,000 MW of new installations for the year 2018 to more than double the new installations expected in the year 2021.
Solar In Minnesota
As of March, 2017, Minnesota has a total of 431.6 megawatts (431,600,000 watts) of solar capacity installed statewide. Over 32% of that capacity went ‘on-line’ in the first three months of 2017 alone. As of June 2016, there are a total of 1,500 rooftop solar installations in the State. As of the end of 2016 the State of Minnesota ranked 16th nationally for total solar energy production capacity.
The State’s solar installation total is enough to power 57,000 homes. The share of the State’s total electricity use that comes from solar power, however, is less than 0.2%. This indicates great potential for growth throughout the State. Current solar growth projections for the State equal an additional 1,214 MW over the next 5 years - a growth rate that ranks 21st nationally.
Costs for Solar PV installation in the State have declined 64% since 2012. Price declines have been accompanied with increasing rate of investment in solar energy. A total of $461,430,000 has been invested in Solar PV installations with $336,490,000 in 2016 alone. The industry currently employs 2,872 people in 159 companies Statewide. Minnesota employment figures for Solar PV rank 25th nationally, again indicating a potential for employment growth.
For every Kilowatt (KW) of installed solar generating capacity in Minnesota, over 8,600 cubic feet of greenhouse gas emissions are avoided and over 6,300 gallons of fresh water is saved…for every year the array is in operation!
You can learn more about the benefits of solar pv as well as options for ownership and some of the incentives available in Minnesota here.