In 2012, the United States installed more solar panels than in any previous year and residential use of solar power was up 70 percent over 2011—according to a recent report conducted by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research Solar.

By the end of this year, homeowners, businesses and utility companies will have installed enough photovoltaic cells to produce 3.2 gigawatts (GW) of electricity in the United States, up from 1.9 GW last year. In total, the U.S. now has 5,700 megawatts of installed solar capacity, enough to power more than 940,000 households.

The eight states posting utility installations of 10 megawatts or greater are: California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, New Mexico, and New Jersey.

The cost of solar installations continues to come down, making solar affordable for more homes, businesses, utilities, and the military. For residential users, for example, the price of installing solar has decreased in the past year by 15.3 percent.

An added benefit of solar use, argued by alternative-energy advocates, is the opportunity for grid independence, which would reduce the risk of blackouts like the one that affected thousands of people in the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy.

If you are considering solar power panels for your home or business, the solar power specialists at Oak Electric Service are happy to answer your questions, including inquiries about financing for solar installations. We are NABCEP-certified (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) solar panel installers. We invite you to visit our website at www.oakelectric.com to learn more about us; or give us a call at (800) 964-7070.