There was a time, not so long ago, when solar power was the stuff of science fiction. Now, it is the nation’s fastest-growing source of renewable energy. Here’s why things will only get brighter for the burgeoning industry.

1. Rising Capacity

Like most innovative products, the panels that convert sunlight into usable electricity took some time to catch on. In fact, about two-thirds of global capacity was installed in the last four years alone! The initial remaining one-third took over 40 years to put in place, which means the industry has grown more in the last few years than it has since its inception. Of particular interest is the amazing growth in the American market the past two years. Nearly 200,000 installations were completed in 2014, up 20 percent over the previous year.

2. Larger Workforce

What do all viable industries have in common? They employ people! Until recently, the number of workers who made, sold, or installed solar panel systems (photovoltaic or PV systems) was too small to measure. Today, there are nearly 174,000 solar workers in America-a 53 percent increase since 2011. This large, engaged workforce is desperately needed to keep up with the ever-growing demand for commercial and residential installations and expert maintenance. At last count, nearly three-quarters of a million U.S. homes and businesses have made the switch to solar. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that a new PV system is installed every 2.5 minutes in America!

3. Exploding Global Markets

Nearly every developed nation has invested in solar power. As we mentioned, the U.S. market is growing at a rapid rate, more than 40 percent in 2014 alone. Other global powers have made major commitments in their push to harness clean energy. For example, China recently announced that it would triple PV installations by 2017!

4. Falling Costs

Once seen as a luxury product only the rich could afford, rising competition has led to a rapid decline in PV system prices. A recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency found that the cost of solar power prices and equipment has fallen more than 80 percent since 2009. Those costs will decline even further as the permitting process becomes streamlined, and installation training increases. We are now living in the time when the average American family can make the switch to renewable energy without worrying about the cost.

5. Finite Fuel Resources, Infinite Sunshine

As the price of solar energy installations decrease, solar is becoming cost competitive as a legitimate alternative to traditional power sources like coal, nuclear, and natural gas. This is because solar energy as a power generation technology relies on the sun rather than fuel. As traditional fuel resources decrease, the cost of extraction will rise. With solar energy, the future is bright and sustainable!

For all those reasons and more, solar power should be considered the energy source of the future.