Report: Solar industry has record year

Taken in whole, solar still accounts for just a small share of the U.S. electricity mix.

But SEIA said the U.S. solar industry market grew 34 percent last year to $11.5 billion, up from $8.6 billion. It projected future growth, and said the wider adoption reduced the cost of solar power for consumers.

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Utilities led the way by installing 1,782 megawatts — 54 percent — of solar capacity last year.

The White House has promoted the solar industry by carving out space on federal lands for utility-scale solar projects and offering stimulus loans and grants to specific firms.

That federal assistance, however, has made the solar industry a favorite target of Republicans.

GOP lawmakers often used the high-profile bankruptcy of solar panel-maker Solyndra to attack President Obama's federal clean-energy initiatives in the run-up to last year's election.

The California firm got a $535 million Energy Department loan guarantee through the federal stimulus, only to go belly-up.

Republicans say such loans and grants interfere with the private market, amounting to a system of picking losers and winners that they say puts public money at risk.

Conservatives are still throwing those jabs even beyond the election.

The House GOP budget released Tuesday identified two federally backed solar projects as "ill-fated ventures" — even though they're doing quite well.

— This story was updated at 12:07 p.m.