Solar is reshaping the energy industry. As one of the most reliable and widely-used forms of renewable energy, solar has grown significantly in the United States in the past decade. This growth can be attributed to many factors. The development and advancement of solar technology, as well as the increase of government incentive programs, has helped to lower upfront costs of solar installations. This, combined with the environmental necessity for sustainable business practices, has helped push the solar industry to new heights in the energy sector. According to the IEA, solar energy generation increased 22% in 2019 alone; a rate that is not expected to slow down in the near future.
While there are many variables that have impacted this growth, it is important to acknowledge the ways the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in particular have helped grow both the residential and commercial sectors of the solar industry. Implemented in 2006, the ITC is a 26% federal tax credit claimed against the tax liability (Sections 48) for utility and commercial solar. That means that until 2021, businesses that install, develop and/or finance a solar project are eligible for this tax credit. Though a sliding-scale schedule has been set for the ITC, reducing to 22% in 2021, recent legislative bills have been proposed that would increase the timeline of the ITC. This tax incentive has proven to be very effective as solar installations have grown annually (on average) at a rate of 52% since this credit was enacted .
Besides the Federal ITC, there are other tax incentives, rebates, and loan programs at state and local levels within the United States. Rebate programs differ in that a certain amount of money is refunded to the customer once solar is purchased to help mitigate costs. Many installers will also provide lower interest loans to help offset the upfront costs. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), as well as the Department of Energy, provide comprehensive lists of available government programs. Any person or company interested in investing in solar can explore these platforms to see eligibility requirements and program details. Federal, state and local incentive programs have worked together to help continue to lower the cost of commercial solar, enabling more and more businesses to go solar. The results of this movement are reflected in large corporations such as Amazon, Google, Apple, and many others, committing to a more sustainable future by going solar.
From an environmental perspective, solar energy reduces dependency on finite fossil fuel energy sources, reducing pollution levels. Fossil fuels produce harmful carbon dioxide and methane emissions when burned; solar is a clean, zero emission energy source. Moreover, natural gas & coal-fired energy production require mass amounts of water for cooling, furthering their negative environmental impact. The development and growth of the commercial solar industry has led to a diverse array of technologies and systems used to cater to every business's energy needs. Panels can be mounted on rooftops, made into parking coverings, arranged in large ground-mounted arrays, and more. As the technology continues to advance, the accessibility and affordability of solar technology will continue to grow exponentially as well. If anything can be learned from the past decade, it is not just that solar is not only here to stay, but that the future of renewable energy is bright.
 Iea. Solar PV Analysis. IEA, 1 June 2020, www.iea.org/reports/solar-pv.  Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). SEIA, www.seia.org/initiatives/solar-investment-tax-credit-itc.