Solar Energy Data

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Note:  Household demand satisfied per megawatt (MW)

Many factors influence the number of households whose electricity demand is met by a MW of solar generation. Currently, the Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that in the United States the average is 164 households. See the SEIA webpage for a detailed explanation.

Alamo 2 Solar Farm, developed by OCI Solar Power for use by CPS Energy in San Antonio, TXAlamo 2 Solar Farm, developed by OCI Solar Power for use by CPS Energy in San Antonio, TX

Texas State’s installed solar capacity

Final data for 2016 are expected to be available sometime in February or March of 2017.

At the end of the previous year, 2015, Texas had an estimated 542 megawatts (MW) of cumulative, installed solar capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. This comprised 410 MW of utility-scale, 74 MW of residential, and 58 MW of commercial installations.

SEIA reported that 181 MW of new capacity had been installed in the state during 2015.

It is clear that growth in 2016 was significant. The Texas Solar Power Association, our state’s industry trade association, has estimated that Texas likely reached approximately 1 gigawatt (1 GW, or 1,000 MW) of installed capacity at the end of the year. TXSES will report actual data as soon as they are available.

Employment in Texas’ solar industry

The Solar Foundation’s latest National Solar Jobs Census (released in February 2017) found that the number of jobs in the solar energy industry in Texas grew to 9,396 in 2016. This represented an increase of 34 percent over 2015. The 2016 total earned Texas a ranking of third among all the states, a move up the ladder from sixth place in 2015 (although our state is only 37th on a per capita basis).

Number of distributed installations in Texas

Although data on the installed capacity on residential and commercial properties (called distributed generation) is available (see the figure above — 132 MW), data on the number of distributed installations are more difficult to find.

The Texas Solar Energy Society estimates that at least 21,000 residential and commercial properties throughout the state had installed solar energy, usually on rooftops, as of mid-2016.

There is not yet any reliable, standard way of compiling these data. In 2015 the U.S. DOE’s Energy Information Administration began to include a question about distributed installations in its annual survey of utilities, but the EIA admits that reporting is still spotty, although improving.

TXSES’ Larry Howe (a member of the board of directors from Plano) began compiling data in 2015 in order to generate an estimate periodically. The figure above comprises four available components, and is considered a minimum:

4,437 In the territory of San Antonio’s City Public Service (through personal e-mail as of 5/27/16)
5,177 In the territory of Austin Energy (from March 2016 report)
8,834 In the deregulated parts of the state (from ERCOT load profile data of 5/16/16)
2,444 All others (from EIA 2014 annual net metering report, December 2014)
20,892 Total (very much a minimum)


Installed capacity of solar generation

Cumulative solar generation capacity for the United States stood at 35.8 gigawatts (GW) at the end of the 3rd quarter of 2016, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association in the latter’s U.S. Solar Market Insight.

With one quarter of 2016 remaining, that already represented a 31 percent increase over the end-of-2015 total (27.4 GW), which in turn had been a 36 percent increase over 2014.

Of this total, 7,260 MW (7.26 GW) had been added in 2015. The latter represented 29.4% of electrical generation from all fuel sources added during the year.

Final data will be available in February or March 2017.

Employment in U.S. solar industry (updated annually)

The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census for 2016 found that the U.S. solar industry added about 51,000 workers in 2016. The total number of jobs at the end of the year was 260,077, a 25 percent increase over the previous year.

One of every 50 new jobs in the country in 2016 was in the solar energy industry.

The top five states for total solar employment were California, Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and Florida.


Installed Capacity

According to GTM Research, the cumulative installed capacity of PV globally reached 321 GW by the end of 2015. The capacity installed during that year was approximately 59 GW, which represented a 34 percent increase over the capacity installed in 2014.

Efficiencies of Photovoltaic Cells

As of the end of 2016, the efficiency of commercial, silicon PV cells generally ranged from 16 to 20 percent. There is about a 2 percentage point overall drop when the cells are assembled into modules that actually get installed.

Research is ongoing on numerous additional types of cells that are not at this point economic.  Some multi-junction concentrator cells have reached about 43 percent efficiency in the lab, with a theoretical efficiency of 80 percent.

U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory maintains a chart on its website that tracks records of efficiencies reached in the laboratory for various kinds of PV cells.