solar energy

Solar Energy Statistics 

If you’ve ever driven past a home with solar panels (or installed them yourself), you may have wondered just how cheap and energy-efficient solar power actually is, and just how much of the Sun’s power is harnessed worldwide. Below is a complete breakdown of all the solar stats you need to know.

Key Takeaways

  • Solar/photovoltaic (PV) power is one of the cheapest and fastest-growing sources of renewable energy.
  • Solar PV power accounts for 3.6% of electricity generation globally, and 13.5% of electricity generated by renewable sources (EIA).
  • China, the U.S., and Japan are the leading producers of solar energy worldwide (EIA).
  • Solar energy creates an abundance of high-paying jobs.

General Solar Energy Statistics

Solar Energy Accounts

Solar energy accounts for 13.5% of energy generated
by renewable sources

Source: International Energy Agency

  • Solar energy accounts for 13.5% of energy generated by renewable sources.
  • 15-20% of the power solar panels harnessed from the Sun is converted into usable electricity.
  • The price of electricity from solar energy has declined by 89% in the last decade (and 98% in the past 40), making solar power the cheapest source of energy.
  • Solar power accounts for 3.6% of electricity generation globally.
  • There is already enough solar power capacity installed worldwide (149 gigawatts (GW)) to power 26 million homes.
  • The utility sector boasts the most cumulative U.S. solar panel installations, with 95,607.06 MWdc (megawatts at peak capacity) of installed solar power in Q1 of 2023 (SEIA).
  • Solar remains the third largest renewable electricity technology, behind hydropower and wind (IEA).
  • Solar power tends to be the renewable energy technology of choice in the private sector worldwide (IEA).
    • 26% of private sector solar power use comes from companies installing rooftop solar panels and other solar PV installations on their own buildings and premises.
    • Some companies sign contracts directly with solar PV plant operators to purchase their generated electricity (these contracts are known as corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs)). Solar PV plants are the leader in renewables PPAs globally, comprising about 70% of all of these types of deals.
  • The solar industry fosters many international and global collaboration efforts–not just those in support of all renewables, but some solar-specific initiatives as well. The IEA Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme and the International Solar Alliance (which includes 86 countries) are two major examples.

Global Solar Energy Statistics

Electricity Generation Globally

Solar power accounts for 3.6% of electricity generation globally

Source: International Energy Agency

  • About 2.8% of U.S. electricity comes from solar energy–with 73.5 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar capacity operating as of January 2023 (and utility-scale solar capacity didn’t start ramping up until a decade ago) (EIA).
  • Globally, solar power accounts for about 4.5% of total electricity generation. In 2022, global power generation from solar power increased by a record 270 TWh (Terawatt-hours), despite supply chain bottlenecks, increased interest rates, and high commodity prices. China was responsible for about 38% of that growth, followed by the European Union with 17% and the United States with 15% (IEA).
    • The global increase in solar power capacity in 2022 was 220 GW (gigawatts) (IEA).
    • In order to reach a Net Zero Scenario, the annual global solar PV generation level would have to reach 8,300 TWh in 2030, which would require an annual growth rate of 26% from 2023 through 2030. This growth rate is similar to the one already recorded in 2022, but concerted effort will be required to maintain this momentum in the face of a growing market (IEA).
  • Just over half of the new U.S. energy generating capacity is solar power as of 2023.
  • Solar power is the fastest-growing energy source in the U.S., comprising 54% of planned generation projects for this year (EIA).
  • In 2022, Americans installed enough solar panels to power 22 million homes (EIA).
  • Solar PV is the power generation technology with the most investment as of 2022, comprising almost 45% of total global electricity generation investment. Worldwide, last year alone, investments in solar capacity additions increased by over 20%, surpassing $320 billion (IEA).
  • The U.S. is the second largest producer of solar energy in the world.
  • China is the largest producer of solar energy in the world (IEA).
    • China has built up its solar power capacity in recent years and is expected to add 95-120 gigawatts in 2023 (expanding by 30%, an annual record). 
    • Solar energy accounts for 3.5% of China’s total energy use.
  • France ranks third in Europe in terms of solar power generation capacity, with 14 gigawatts as of 2022.
  • Germany ranks fourth in the world in terms of solar energy generation capacity (IEA).
    • Solar power met German expansion targets, jumping up by 19%, as of 2022.
    • In 2022, renewables accounted for 49.6% of Germany’s total electricity generation.
  • Only 4.4% of the United Kingdom’s electricity comes from solar power, compared to 23.3% from wind and 35.9% from gas.
  • Solar power is the third largest source of energy in Brazil, behind only hydropower and wind.
    • Brazil’s capacity to generate renewable energy is 84% (the global average is 38%).
  • India ranks fifth in the world in terms of solar energy generation capacity, with a 27% increase from 2021 to 2022. This is in part thanks to KSPDCL, a solar corporation that leases land from citizens for solar farms as part of the National Solar Mission.
  • Japan ranks third in the world in terms of solar energy generation capacity.
  • Ten gigawatts of solar panels currently generate 4% of Turkey’s electricity.

Solar Compared to Other Energy Sources

Global Solar Energy Statistics

In 2022, global power generation from solar power increased by 270 TWh. China contributed to 38% of the increase, the E.U. contributed to 17%, and the U.S. 15%.

Source: International Energy Agency

Solar power is renewable, carbon-emissions-free, greenhouse gas-free, clean energy, and requires no water for production. It’s also the cheapest energy source in history.

As of 2022, renewable energy sources comprised 13% of the U.S.’s total primary energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Solar power contributed 14.2% of that power. 

This means that it’s the second-smallest renewable energy source in the country, beating only geothermal energy (1.6%). It’s superseded by hydroelectric power (18%), wind power (29%), and biomass power (37%) (includes biomass waste, biofuels, and wood) (EIA).

In terms of non-renewable energy sources, petroleum took the lead (36%), followed by natural gas (33%), coal (10%), and nuclear electric power (8%).

Solar Energy Costs

Solar Energy Costs

Solar photovoltaic energy costs between 3-6 cents per kWh, compared to 5-17 cents per kWh for energy derived from fossil fuels.

Source: International Energy Agency

  • In 2023, solar panels can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $35,000, with an average of $16,000.
  • Solar power is considered the cheapest source of energy, costing about $1 per watt on average (Forbes).
  • The cost of PV installation ranges from $5,400-$18,000 ($1.10-$1.90 per watt).
  • Solar photovoltaic energy costs between 3-6 cents per kWh, compared to 5 to 17 cents per kWh for energy from fossil fuels.
  • Over the last decade, the cost of solar power has dropped by over 50% (SEIA).
  • Supply chain challenges have meant that the price of solar has increased over the past two years (by up to 18% in the utility sector, 14.3% in the commercial sector, and 7.9% in the residential sector) but the supply chain issues have showed sign of easing up, leading to a flattening of the price increase for Q1 of 2023 (SEIA).
  • Soft costs (like installation labor, customer acquisition, permits, inspection, and interconnection of individual systems to the grid) make up the majority of costs in the solar industry, as opposed to the costs of actual hardware. In 2022, soft costs made up 63% of the total (with $2.01 per watt, compared to $1.20 per watt in hardware costs) (SEIA).

Solar Energy and Jobs

  • As of 2022, more than 263,000 Americans work in the solar industry at one of over 10,000 different companies (with solar companies in every single U.S. state).
    • As of 2022, the majority of these employees work in installation and development (171,558). This is followed by manufacturing (33,473), sales and distribution (30,618), operations and maintenance (16,585), and other (11,648) (SEIA).
    • California (40,977 megawatt capacity) tends to dominate the solar market, but other states like Texas (18,273 megawatt capacity), Florida (11,747 megawatt capacity), and New York (4,470 megawatt capacity) have rapidly expanding markets (SEIA).
    • All other states’ markets are rapidly expanding beyond the rate at which California’s alone is expanding. In 2022, California alone installed about 2,000 MWdc of solar capacity, compared to all other states combined installing nearly 4,000 MWdc. But by 2028, California alone is projected to install just over 1,000 MWdc annually compared to all other states combined installing over 7,000 MWdc (SEIA).
    • The states with the least solar capacity are North Dakota and South Dakota, with 2 megawatts of capacity each.
  • On average, residential solar installations create 26.6 solar jobs per megawatt (Solar Jobs Census).
  • The solar industry employs a variety of types of workers, from scientists to manufacturers to construction workers to salespeople. The average salary for a solar specialist as of June 2023 is $73,267.