The Chart That Shows Why the Solar-Powered Future Has Arrived

The U.S. breaks a record for generating electricity from the sun.

(Photo: Steve Marcus/Reuters)

Sep 1, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Todd Woody is TakePart's editorial director, environment.

More than one record was broken in June. Scarily, it was the hottest month on record as global temperatures continue to rise thanks to climate change. More happily, United States solar power plants in June smashed the record for generating carbon-free electricity from the sun, another sign that renewable energy is increasingly becoming competitive with fossil fuels.

(Photo: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

So-called utility-scale solar power plants—those with a capacity of 1 megawatt or more—produced 2,765 gigawatt-hours of electricity in June, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. (One megawatt can power about 164 American homes.)

That’s nearly 36 percent more power than was generated in June 2014. The power surge matches a building boom in photovoltaic power plants, which deploy tens of thousands of solar panels like those found on residential rooftops. Over the past year, the nation’s photovoltaic power plant capacity jumped 47.5 percent.

The news comes on the heels of a report from the International Energy Agency that found that renewable energy is starting to rival coal and other fossil fuels.

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"This report clearly demonstrates that the cost of renewable technologies—in particular solar photovoltaic—have declined significantly over the past five years, and that these technologies are no longer cost outliers," stated the IEA.

The U.S. only produces about 1 percent of its electricity from solar, but certain states now obtain a significant amount of energy from the sun. More than half of the nation’s electricity from solar power plants, for instance, is produced in California. At certain times in June, solar generated 50 percent of the electricity flowing into the state’s power grid, according to state officials.