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    April 28, 2016 | 2:01 PM

    One Million Points of Light: Top Five Reasons We Love Solar

    Today, the future of solar energy is looking especially bright. That’s because the US reached a renewable energy milestone recently when the one-millionth solar installation came online.

    To help celebrate this new record, we’ve joined the #MillionSolarStrong campaign with our friends at the Solar Energy Industries Association. #MillionSolarStrong is not just a celebration of the progress the world has made in advancing solar energy, but also a look into a future built on clean, renewable energy where every day, we’re one step closer to putting an end to climate change.

    In this post, we’re celebrating this remarkable moment in solar and counting down the top five reasons we love solar energy.

    5. Solar is booming.

    Consider this fact: it took the US about 40 years to get to 1 million solar installations, but at the rate the industry is going, it’ll take just another two years to reach 2 million. According to a report by GTM Research, the solar market in the US is projected to grow 119 percent in 2016 alone – adding more than double the amount of capacity installed last year. Pretty impressive.

    So what’s driving all of this growth? Large, utility-scale projects are projected to make up the bulk of installations this year, but other key drivers of growth will be smaller scale—including new community solar programs, utility-led efforts to enable corporations to obtain offsite solar, and rooftop solar.

    4. Solar energy isn’t just good for the environment – it can save you money too.

    The average cost of solar panels fell 75 percent between 2009–2014 alone, and some analysts predict the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules will drop another 25 percent by 2018. But it doesn’t stop there. Leasing rooftop solar panels can often save consumers money on their first utility bill and for the life of the lease. This solar-as-a-service model allows solar companies to sell consumers electricity for less than the utility can. In addition, many solar companies provide free installation and maintenance, providing consumers with instant savings.

    People can save even more over time if they're will to put down a sum up front or purchase solar panels outright. With tax incentives, net metering credits, and Solar Renewable Energy Certificates, it’s possible for consumers to recoup a solar system investment within 10–15 years, or even sooner in some areas. And after that, it's free electricity! Solar energy systems typically last 25–30 years (sometimes even longer), so that means your solar investment has the potential to give you free power for 15 years or more.

    How much you can save per month depends on your location and how you finance your solar panels, but one back-of-the-envelope calculation we saw showed that people can save about $50 per month – or $12,000 over 20 years.

    3. Solar power creates jobs.

    As the price of solar energy continues to fall, the demand for it continues to increase, which means the industry needs to expand to meet this demand. The solar industry already employs Americans in all 50 US states and added over 35,000 jobs in 2015 alone. Critically, this growth shows no sign of slowing any time soon with solar companies projected to add over 30,000 new workers in 2016. Plus, the solar industry can train workers from many backgrounds and pay them well – the median salary for a solar designer in 2015 was about $56,000 per year, higher than the 2014 US overall median household income.

    2. Solar power is one of the most reliable sources of energy.

    It's true. Remember, most solar panels produce electricity for over 20 years or more as their parts do not wear out easily. In fact, many of the first solar systems installed over 40 years ago are still active today. Plus, using solar power diversifies our energy sources, making the entire grid more dependable. We have more tools available to make solar and other variable renewable technologies more reliable than ever, such as larger and more integrated grids, better resource forecasting, and more use of energy storage technologies.

    1. Solar puts us on a clear path to ending climate change.

    The number one reason we love solar and other renewable energies is that they’ve put us on the path to ending climate change and creating a sustainable future for our planet. A world powered by clean energy is truly within our grasp – and with a newly formalized Paris Agreement and technologies like solar and wind growing and improving every day, we have every reason to be optimistic.

    We hope you’ll take action with us to celebrate 1 million solar installations! Show your support for solar and #MillionSolarStrong by joining this Thunderclap

    And if you’re ready to learn more about solar, download our Top Solar Energy Myths e-book to find out how to debunk some of the most common solar misconceptions.

    © 2014 Global Panorama/Flickr cc by sa 2.0

    The Climate Reality Project