FACT: Solar Installations Are Booming

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WSJ: “U.S. Is On Pace To Install As Much Solar Power [In 2012] As It Did In This Century’s Entire First Decade.” In September 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported: “The U.S. is on pace to install as much solar power this year as it did in this century’s entire first decade: at least 2,500 megawatts, the equivalent of more than two nuclear-power plants.” The Journal created this chart based on data from GTM Research:

A report by the nonpartisan Energy Information Administration similarly found that “2011 was a record year for solar PV growth.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/9/12] [Energy Information Administration, 10/31/12]

Brookings Report: Solar Jobs Grew More Than Twice As Fast As The Rest Of The Economy. A Brookings report on the clean economy found that between 2003 and 2010, jobs in the solar thermal industry expanded by 18.4 percent annually and jobs in the solar photovoltaic industry grew 10.7 percent annually, compared to a 4.2 percent growth rate in the national economy. [Brookings Institution, 7/13/11]

Energy Expert: Consolidation Of Solar Industry Is A Sign Of “Maturation, Not Collapse.” In an emerging industry, it is common for the industry to consolidate as it matures, meaning some companies go bankrupt, while others succeed. For instance, hundreds of early automobile manufacturers went out of business or were taken over by larger companies as the automobile industry took off, as can be seen from this chart from the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy:

Shayle Kann, the managing director of solar research at GTM Research, told Media Matters in 2011 that this consolidation is a sign of “maturation, not collapse.” [CBS News, 8/17/11] [Phone conversation, 12/1/11]

Amid This Consolidation, Some Solar Companies Have Benefitted. CNNMoney explained that while some solar manufacturers in the U.S. have gone bankrupt due to lower silicon prices, the consolidation in the industry “isn’t necessarily a bad thing for solar power,” and the lower prices mean that “more people are likely to go solar” benefitting companies that generate and install solar energy:

Two high profile companies have gone bankrupt in the United States — government-backed Solyndra and Evergreen — and analysts anticipate more failures ahead.

“Solyndra was just the beginning,” said Jessie Pichel, head of clean energy research at the investment bank Jefferies & Co. “We’re going to see a lot of companies go bankrupt.”

Just how many? Of the few hundred or so solar panel makers worldwide, just 20 to 40 are expected to remain standing in a few years time, said Mark Bachman, a renewables analyst at Avian Securities.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for solar power. Bachman noted that many young industries go through this phase — think of all the auto makers at the beginning of the last century or television makers 40 years ago. As the market matures, the stronger companies survive.

And there’s an upside to declining prices: It means more people are likely to go solar. [CNNMoney, 11/30/11]

MYTH: U.S. Can’t Compete With Chinese Solar Industry

  • Fox contributor Tamara Holder said “we tried to compete in a market that we shouldn’t be competing in — solar energy. We are sending–or, we’re trying to compete with China.” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/19/11, via Nexis]
  • Fox Business’ David Asman said “I don’t want to enter into a losing business venture. If the Chinese have this market all wrapped up, as they clearly do, or at least part of the market, I’m not for competing.” [Fox Business, America's Nightly Scoreboard, 10/26/11, via Nexis]
  • Fox News’ Eric Bolling asked co-host Dana Perino: “Why do you think solar industry is robust? We’re getting our tail handed to us by the Chinese.” [Fox News, The Five, 11/17/11, via Nexis]