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Solar Market Is Bright, But Looming Tariffs Could Cloud Future

A solar energy panel is carried to be placed in a solar energy field at the S...

Photo by Rich Pedroncelli AP

Above: A solar energy panel is carried to be placed in a solar energy field at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in Rancho Cordova, Calif.

The nation's solar industry added more capacity than ever during the second quarter of this year. U.S. solar power capacity jumped nearly 2.4 megawatts in the second quarter as solar continued to expand.

California gets more than 14 percent of its energy from solar panels.

Most of the growth is coming from large utility-scale projects, but more than 5 million homes get at least some of their power from the sun.

Solar Energy Industries Association reported that the state remains the biggest driver in the nation pushing the adoption of solar.

"We've got almost 20,000 megawatts of solar deployed in California and that's still nearly half of the solar in the nation. And there are more than 100,000 people that are employed in the solar industry in California," said Sean Gallagher, of SEIA.

RELATED: California Could Set 100% Renewable Energy Goal

The cost of solar dropped 55 percent in the past five years, but solar's costs could soar if the International Trade Commission puts tariffs on imported solar panels. Tariffs could double the cost of solar, driving down demand.

"If the tariffs were adopted the way that they're proposed it would double the cost of solar and we expect it to cut the market in half over the next few years. And eliminate as many as 16,000 jobs in California next year alone," said Gallagher.

California currently has more than 2,600 companies that rely on a vibrant solar industry for their livelihood. A decision on the tariff case could come from the International Trade Commission by Friday.

The U.S. solar market continues to add capacity and California is leading the way.

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