By Comly Wilson
First the good news; in 2011 and 2010, total installed capacity of solar energy doubled, in 2012 there was more installed capacity through three quarters than all of 2011 combined. The average price of a solar panel has declined 58% since the beginning of 2011 and there are over 119,000 solar workers in the U.S., a 13.2% increase over 2011. Plus, the solar industry receives more venture capital than any other clean energy sector. There is good reason for excitement – the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that there is enough available rooftop area to support a combined 819 Terawatt hours (TWh) annually, which is equal to about 20% of total U.S. electricity demand.
Still, solar accounts for less than 1% of electricity consumption in the United States. Despite the exponential growth of the industry, it has struggled to make real ground in the race against rising demand and carbon emissions. Furthermore, while the low prices (caused by over-supply) for solar panels has lead to more installations, it has meant tough times for manufacturers, which make up almost 50% of the solar workforce.