Solar energy is serious business. The push towards renewable energy over the last decade is translating into rapid growth in the solar power sector, with signs that the industry is really starting to make a serious move from fringe to mainstream. According to Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Association (SEIA), solar is now the fastest growing energy industry in the U.S. and a glance at the graph above makes clear the massive growth predicted in the next five years.

Writing as a guest blogger on Climate Progress, Resch paints a rosy picture of the industry's future. There are currently 100,000 people employed in the solar sector and it's expected that enough solar installations to power more than 200,000 U.S. homes will be installed in 2010. By 2015, this number could reach 2 million per annum with solar power plants reaching a combined capacity of 10 gigawatts.

"We can install so much solar energy that we will eliminate the need for any new coal or nuclear power plants in the U.S. ever again," say Resch.

Also has some interesting things to say about how Big Oil is defending its turf.

The solar industry’s gains continued with last week’s announcement by the Department of the Interior that it will issue permits allowing the first utility-scale solar project on federal land. This is a significant milestone for solar. Over the last two decades, 74,000 permits have been approved for oil and gas drilling on public lands. And up until last week solar had received zero.

Resch also points out a recent milestone for solar development with the Department of the Interior now saying it will issue permits for utility-scale solar project on federal land, a move that will help the industry as it works to gain a foothold in an arena that's still very much dominated by Big Oil.