Edmund Tse/flickrThe United States is on track to hit a big number in renewable energy: More than 1 million American homes should have solar panels by February 2016.
While solar still makes up a tiny part of the sliver of renewables that power the US, it has increased exponentially in the past decade. And the solar industry is poised to keep growing in the decades to come.
The panels have increased in efficiency since then, too. American homes using solar can now satisfy more than 85% of their electricity demand, according to the EnergySage Solar Marketplace Intel Report, released today, which collected data from more than 10,000 installation quotes from about 2,000 consumers.
Chief Executive and Founder Vikram Aggarwal told Tech Insider that EnergySage estimates up to 6 million Americans are actively shopping for solar today, and more than 300,000 of them will end up installing solar panels this year.
Union of Concerned Scientists"People love solar; there's very little not to like about it, " he said. "No noise, no emissions, out of sight, produces electricity, it's beautiful, and it makes financial sense. I think as more people find out about it and more people become comfortable shopping for solar, and they don't feel like they're being sold but they have control, I think the sky's the limit."
To use EnergySage's marketplace, potential solar customers make an account and tell the company what their energy bill costs, how much energy they use, how much of their electricity they want generated from solar, how big their roof is and how many panels they want. Solar installers then submit bids based on this information, and EnergySage shares them with the customer so they can decide which one is right for them.
This abundance of data has allowed EnergySage to give a pretty clear picture of what the solar industry and output looks like in the US right now.
The average size of a solar system, according to the report, was just under 8 kilowatts in 2015, a little smaller than the average last year. A system this size measures about 800 square feet, since — with today's home solar technologies — you need about 100 square feet of roof space for every kilowatt.
EnergySage found the average cost of installation continues to drop, too, and is now just over $29,000. This price doesn't account for tax credits and other government incentives, according to an EnergySage representative, so the cost could be less. .
The company's marketplace was originally developed through grants from the US Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative, Aggarwal said, and he hopes it can help make the industry more transparent so more consumers feel confident in buying solar panels for their homes.
"Over the last decade, we are barely reaching 1 million rooftops with solar. It has taken us awhile. But the good news is the trend is accelerating,"Aggarwal said. "Based on the number of consumers who are interested in solar, if we can make solar shopping as easy and as transparent as shopping for hotels or cars, I have no doubt that we would be doing five, 10 times the volume that we are doing today."
You can read the company's full report here.