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A record year for the U.S. solar industry

Solar photovoltaic panels generate electricity at an Exelon solar power facility in Chicago, Ill.

David Brancaccio: The solar power industry has been in the doghouse after industry biggie, Solyndra, went under, despite all its government subsidies. But there's a report out today that shows we've just come off a boom year for solar.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Eve Troeh reports.


Eve Troeh: The Solar Energy Industries Association says U.S. solar installations grew more than 100 percent last year. Rhone Resch is president.

Rhone Resch: The solar industry has grown faster than any other industry in the United States.

Percentage-wise. Solar is still a small part of the U.S. energy economy.

The triple-digit growth came as developers sped up solar projects to meet a 2011 deadline for federal grants. And the price of solar panels plunged about 50 percent. Chalk that up to China.

Resch: China now manufactures more than two-thirds of all the solar in the world.

But that doesn't necessarily mean a loss for U.S. solar companies, says U.C. Berkeley energy professor Dan Kammen, because American firms still lead in solar installation gear, software and financing products like solar leases.

Dan Kammen: There's also huge room for innovation, and these U.S. companies are major innovators.

Kammen says the growth in U.S. solar is sustainable, as long as companies find their market niche, and don't try to do it all.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.
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