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Industry watch: 4 big changes for solar

Even though the first solar cell was created in the late 1800s, the solar energy industry is kind of like a 19-year-old. The industry has been going through a lot of changes – some of them pretty awkward – in the past few years and now it's staring down the glory days of its 20s. Wider adoption, lower costs and better technologies are all part of the future of solar energy. And, as more people see the potential of renewable energy, breaking themselves away from fossil fuel, it'll mean more solar energy jobs and a more sustainable future for everyone.

1. Warming up to solar energy

The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that 1.3 million American homes have some sort of solar power system. It's a small number when compared to other forms of energy, but it's growing. With so many people getting on the solar bandwagon, USA Today says the U.S. is currently the third-largest solar market in the world, behind China and Japan. Business leaders are buying into solar energy too. Apple, Google and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway have all started dropping cash into the industry, helping make some of the recent changes possible. Props also go to the Obama Administration for making a commitment and creating policies to address global climate change.

2. Solar on the cheap

Thanks to the solar boom, solar installation costs have gone down which has taken it from Richard Branson affordable to nearly regular person affordable. The Department of Energy did some digging and found that the cost of going solar not only started dropping significantly in 2013 but that will continue to decrease. Because the cost of solar installation has gotten cheaper, it's become a more realistic option for the non-millionaire population. The option to lease solar panels makes it even easier to afford because most leasing arrangements don't require any payment up front. Making it cheap and easy to go solar really lit a fire in this industry. Leasing alone was responsible for a 38% jump in home installations in 2013.

3. Harder, better, faster, stronger

Researchers, solar industry professionals and innovative solar companies, like Solar Roadways, have been hard at work, leading the battle against climate change and improving the science behind this source of renewable energy. They're pulling all-nighters to make photovoltaic cells more efficient at converting sunlight into electric power. To put it into perspective, Forbes Magazine found that the conversion efficiency rate of an average solar panel is between 15% and 16%. Even the smallest increase in that number can mean a big increase in total energy output, meaning that better, faster, stronger solar cells are needed, pronto!

4. Peek into the future

With cheaper options available and more people going crazy for renewable energy, Team Solar will need more manpower to meet the demand. And there are many types of jobs to fill. People will be needed in the coming years to help with research and development, manufacturing of solar power materials, construction and operation of solar power plants, and solar power installation and maintenance. Interested in joining the team? Because of new technologies and improved methods of installations, not just anyone off the street will make the cut. Team Solar recruits need to be well trained and educated on the latest happenings in solar.