BOSTON — Solar power is growing so fast across the United States that 10 percent solar capacity is seen as achievable by 2030, according to a new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center.

“We can get to 10 percent solar by 2030 if we just keep our foot on the accelerator,” said Rob Sargent, energy program director for Environment America and co-author of the report. “That’s a small fraction of what’s possible, but it will make a big difference in the quality of our lives and our children’s future.”

The group’s researchers found that solar has grown 77 percent in the last three years. Even if this pace slowed to 22 percent, solar could still generate 10 percent of the nation’s electricity in less than two decades — a goal once thought improbable by many, said the organization.

“Given the growth of solar over the last few years, getting to 10 percent of U.S. electricity from solar should happen far sooner than 2030,” said Jigar Shah, a solar industry pioneer and president of Generate Capital.

Achieving 10 percent, the report said, would cut 280 million metric tons of carbon by 2030, half of the pollution reductions required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, and the equivalent of taking 59 million cars off the road.

Solar is currently the fastest-growing industry in the country, adding 143,000 jobs nationwide in 2013. As its costs continue to plummet, it’s also becoming accessible to more and more households.

“Solar is widely popular across the spectrum,” said Anya Schoolman, founder of DC Solar United and executive director of the Community Power Network. “Once people see the power of the sun at work on their homes, businesses, government buildings, and places of worship, they work together to make even more of it happen.”

The report quantifies the nation’s solar energy potential using data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The U.S. has more than 35 million residential and commercial rooftops that could host solar panels, and it has enough technical potential to meet the country’s energy needs 100 times over.

“When it comes to solar energy, the sky’s the limit,” said Sargent. “Getting to 10 percent solar is the just the first step to a future powered entirely by pollution-free energy.”

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Publication date: 12/22/2014

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