The.U.S. has become a #MillionSolarStrong. According to a new report from the George Washington Solar Institute the solar industry has installed more than a million solar projects and is on an accelerated path toward 2 million. In tandem with the report, the solar industry has launched a #MillionSolarStrong and recognizes rooftop and utility-scale reports alike.
“The idea that we are celebrating a million solar installations in this country is remarkable, given we had just a couple thousand when I started here a dozen years ago,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “This accomplishment is made all the more stunning with the projections indicating we will hit 2 million installations before the end of 2018. Our meteoric growth is driven by the fact that solar is one of the lowest cost options for electricity and it has been embraced by people who care about the environment and want to choose where their energy is coming from.”
Key points from the George Washington Solar Institute report are that:
- Installation costs for solar have dropped more than 70 percent in the last decade;
- Solar jobs have grown more than 123 percent in the last five years, making solar one of the bright spots in the economy; and
- The million installations have cut enough carbon to equal all of Oregon’s emissions.
The #MillionSolarStrong social media campaign features photos and videos from people throughout the state who are involved and support solar power.
According to new data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), renewable generation capacity increased by 152 GW of 8.3 percent during 2015. This marks the highest global growth ever. Renewable Capacity Statistics 2016 finds that as of the end of 2015, 1,985 GW of renewable generation capacity existed globally.
“Renewable energy deployment continues to surge in markets around the globe, even in an era of low oil and gas prices. Falling costs for renewable energy technologies, and a host of economic, social and environmental drivers are favoring renewables over conventional power sources,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “This impressive growth, coupled with a record $286 billion invested in renewables in 2015, sends a strong signal to investors and policymakers that renewable energy is now the preferred option for new power generation capacity around the world.”
The report finds 2015 was a record year for solar and wind energy in large part due to a continued decline in technology costs. Wind power grew 63 GW (17%) driven by declines in onshore turbine prices of up to 45 percent since 2010. Solar capacity increased 47 GW (37%) thanks to price drops of up to 80 percent for solar photovoltaic modules in the same time period. Hydropower capacity increased by 35 GW (3%), while both bioenergy and geothermal energy capacity increased 5% each (5 GW and 1 GW respectively).
Overall, the study reports capacity has increased by roughly one-third over the last five years, with most of this growth coming from new installations of wind and solar energy.
The fastest growth in renewable generation capacity came in developing countries, in terms of regional power generation. Central America and the Caribbean expanded at a rate of 14.5 percent while in Asia, where additions accounted for 58 percent of new global renewable power generation capacity in 2015, capacity expanded at a rate of 12.4 percent. Capacity increased by 24 GW (5.2%) in Europe and 20 GW (6.3%) in North America. Continue reading
The largest solar array in the Caribbean is now producing energy. Monte Plata is a 33.4 MW PV solar array located in the Dominican Republic that will produce more than 50,000 megawatt hours of energy each year. The “power switch” was turned on by Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina. The project was designed and deployed by Dubai-based Phanes Group along with partners General Energy Solutions and Soventix.
Monte Plata’s 132,000 solar panels triple the number of solar panels in the Dominican Republic. Once phase two of the project is complete by the end of 2016, the array’s total capacity will rise to 67 MW, increasing the photovoltaic power output in the country fivefold.
“This project is a demonstration of how multiple stakeholders can work together to co-develop solar projects that are viable and bankable in emerging markets – successfully delivering access to energy and unlocking huge economic opportunities for remote communities,” said Martin Haupts, CEO of Phanes Group.
The country has been challenged with inadequate power supply that includes high transmission and distribution losses that exceed 30 percent. In addition, the country spends on average more than $4 billion each year on fossil fuel imports to operate petroleum, coal and natural gas fueled power plants.
“With much of the Caribbean challenged by expensive fuel imports, solar has the ability to liberate these island nations from economic and energy dependency, increasing the energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions while helping elevate communities,” added Haupts. “Phanes Group is delighted to have played a central role in delivering this breakthrough project, and we remain committed and excited about PV’s opportunities across the emerging world.”
Clean energy jobs continue to rise with a new report from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) showing more than 2.5 million jobs in the clean energy industry across all 50 states. “Clean Jobs in America,” is based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics information and new data from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as a comprehensive survey of tens of thousands of businesses across the country. The report provides detailed breakdowns of clean energy jobs not previously available.
According to the findings, energy efficiency is by far the nation’s largest clean energy sector employer, with nearly 1.9 million Americans while nearly 414,000 people work in renewable energy. The top renewable sectors were solar with 299,000 workers (including nearly 209,000 who work on solar full-time or close to full time, as The Solar Foundation noted in its 2015 job census) and wind with 77,000 workers.
“Clean energy is no longer a niche business – it’s a big-time job creator,” said Dan Smolen, managing director of The Green Suits, a Virginia-based talent recruitment and career development firm. “Our lawmakers need to realize that – and put policies in place, right now, to help the sector grow even more.”
Additional report findings include:
- 328,000 people work in the energy efficient lighting industry. Another 162,000 help build Energy Star appliances.
- Nearly 170,000 Americans work in the advanced vehicle industry, including 107,000 who work on hybrids and electric vehicles. Strength in this industry is due in part to new fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and trucks.
- More people work in clean energy than sectors like real estate and agriculture, and many more work in clean energy than work in dirty energy industries like oil, gas and coal extraction.
“America’s clean energy jobs market is massive,” said Philip Jordan, vice president and principal at BW Research Partnership whose organization conducted the analysis. “It ranks right up there with some of the biggest industries in the country – including real estate, management, and agriculture. When we spoke with clean energy employers nationwide, we were struck by their responsiveness to state- and federal-level policies as well as their optimism.” Jordan added, “It’s clear that by shoring up clean energy policies, lawmakers have a big opportunity to attract even more clean energy jobs to their own backyards.”
Groundswell is changing the way community solar energy is financed. Working with Sustainable Capital Advisors, consumer credit scores will no longer be factored in the financing process, removing an obstacle for consumers across the country. In addition, the program will help the two companies fulfill promises made at the White House Summit last November to create five demonstration projects over the next 18 months as well as launch $25 million of private capital aimed at financing community solar projects located in low and moderate income communities.
“Nearly 50% of Americans aren’t able to switch to solar because they don’t own their roof, don’t have a roof in the right location, or are struggling financially and can’t qualify for financing even if it could help lower their energy bill,” said Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell. “We’re grateful to work with Sustainable Capital Advisors to pioneer a program that will work for all families by bringing community organizing together with community solar project finance.”
Community solar programs are designed to help consumers collectively tap into the power of the sun. This model allows families and small businesses the ability to purchase subscriptions to a central solar array located within their utility territory – making it possible to switch to solar without having to install solar panels on the roof. Community solar can also create more distributed generating capacity for America that promotes greater reliability, resiliency, and sustainability across the grid.
Sustainable Capital Advisors Founder and CEO Trenton Allen added that the company works to create innovative financing solutions for sustainable infrastructure that broadens the pool of participants while being replicable and scalable. “We’re committed to working with Groundswell to create economic opportunities in clean energy for low and moderate income communities that haven’t been able to participate before.”
According to a press release, while solar power adoption grows across the country, affordable clean energy remains out of reach for more than 90 million Americans including families that rent their homes and people with credit scores under 650. Overall, the National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that 49 percent. of households and businesses can’t access rooftop solar. Community solar is an emerging solution, and is currently a modest but growing part of America’s energy mix. In total, fewer than 150 projects have been implemented across the United States, including more than 40 located in Colorado alone. However, the market is projected to grow rapidly over the next five years. The hope is that this new financing program will enable more consumers to join the solar revolution.
An IndyCar pit crew will be the first ever to be powered by solar. IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson and the #ThinkSolar campaign team will be sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) for Wilson’s 2016 Indianapolis 500 bid.
Wilson aims to realize a dream of following his late brother Justin Wilson’s path to the Indy 500 by merging the worlds of motorsports and solar energy through #ThinkSolar. ASES and Wilson share the common goal of moving solar forward, faster.
ASES is the nation’s leading association of solar professionals and advocates. For 61 years, ASES has provided leadership in the renewable energy sector hosting important annual events such as the ASES National Solar Tour and ASES National Solar Conference, and also publishes the award-winning Solar Today publication. Alignment with Wilson’s #ThinkSolar campaign represents an interesting collaboration for the organization in bringing the solar, renewable energy and IndyCar industries together.
The ASES mission to “inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy” aligns well with Wilson’s #ThinkSolar objectives. Among these are connecting race teams, track and sanctioning body officials with solar companies that can design and engineer solar systems to power practical needs in the sport such as charging stations, lights, other electronic assets, beginning with his own.
This endorsement by ASES is a really exciting development and validation of the #ThinkSolar campaign’s vision,” said Wilson. “They’ve helped shape an industry that’s committed to solving many of the energy challenges we face today. Together, we’ll strive to invigorate conversations around commonplace solar applications as well as the design and engineering innovations that will drive the future of renewable energy for this sport and the world.”
ASES Executive Director Carly Rixham is equally excited about the partnership. “We think Stefan’s #ThinkSolar campaign is a great way to get solar in front of people in a new way. There is already some solar in the racecar industry. In fact, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a 9 MW solar farm nearby with 39,312 solar panels,” she said. “Now, bringing solar onto the track will increase the visibility of the technology with a diverse audience. It’s an honor to support Stefan and his earnest interest to reduce environmental impact.”
The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition has added solar energy to its lineup of renewable energy promotion and has changed its name to reflect the new addition: Governors’ Wind and Solar Energy Coalition (GWSC). The Coalition’s goal is to support renewable energy technologies that among other benefits, help to put Americans to work in all 50 states.
“We are proud of Iowa’s leadership in wind energy and we are also encouraged by the recent growth in solar energy,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad who just last week highlighted Iowa as one of the country’s leading wind power producers. “The addition of solar to the Coalition’s portfolio represents a commitment to future economic and renewable energy growth, and further diversification of our nation’s energy portfolio.”
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said of the announcement, “I support the foresight of my colleagues to broaden the Coalition’s focus and include solar energy development as a policy priority. Wind and solar provide complementary benefits to the U.S. electric grid and will help diversify the country’s energy mix. The need for states to take a broader view of renewable power is clear.”
According to SNL Energy, wind and solar energy added 61 percent of all new generation capacity in 2015 through November. As states make plans to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, wind and solar power are expected to continue supplying large amounts new electricity in the years ahead.
“I am proud to work with governors from across the country, and both parties, to advance renewable energy. The exciting growth of both wind and solar energy provide our states with tremendous economic opportunities, as well as the ability to reduce emissions, protect public health, and build a more prosperous and sustainable American clean energy future,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind power has surpassed the 70 gigawatt (GW) milestone of installed wind capacity. Per AWEA, if the pace continues, wind power can become one of the largest sources of electricity in the U.S. by supplying 35 percent by 2050. Tom Kiernan, AWEA CEO noted the group has been very effective in getting policy results that help grow the wind energy industry, and said the decision to combine forces with solar energy reflects the economic and environmental value of diversifying the country’s electric grid.
This week marks the 61st anniversary of the first house in America with solar heating and radiation cooling. Located in Tuscon, Arizona, the house featured a large, slanting slab of steel and glass that coverts sunlight into heat that was ducted into the house. Today, many homes use solar panels to capture the natural heat of the sun and solar is currently the power source for around 83,000 U.S. homes according to the U.S. Census Census Bureau.
While solar accounts for a .7 percent of the power fueling American homes, its growing. However, of the 117 million occupied housing unit, gas remains the most heating fuel, outpacing electricity – about 57 million to 44 million.
The January 17th edition of Profile America focuses on solar power using data gathered as part of the American Community Survey. The program is produced by the Center for New Media and Promotions of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Profile America Looks at Solar
New Hampshire is one of several states that has a cap on solar net metering placing a cap on in-state solar growth. To assess how consumers living in the state feel about solar, The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) conducted a poll and found that 4 out of 5 New Hampshire voters favor solar as an energy source. In addition, 70 percent support the state’s net metering law that allows solar customers to receive credit for the extra energy their solar panels produce. The support for net metering is consistent across political parties with two thirds of both Republican and Democratic respondents support the net metering law and three quarters of Independents support it.
“New Hampshire voters – including solar workers, consumers, schools and businesses – are urging policy makers to lift the cap and keep net metering in place this legislative session,” said TASC spokesperson Evan Dube. “The future of the state’s solar industry hinges on preserving net metering.”
The poll also found a surprising majority supports legislative intervention with the Public Utilities Commission to continue the state’s solar net metering program. Results show that Politicians who want to cap solar metering may find themselves out of a job at the next election. Only 14 percent of polled voters are more likely to vote for such a legislator, while more than three times as many voters would be less likely to vote for the legislator.
The poll also found that although New Hampshire has traditionally one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, voters are enthusiastic about the prospect of new clean-energy jobs created by the growing solar industry in the state. The industry has already created hundreds of solar jobs across the state with the help of policies like net metering.
SolarCity has stopped sales in Nevada due to the decision by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to “undermine Nevadans’ ability to go solar” according to the company who opened an office in the state in 2013. The company says the decision by the PUC to raise fees for rooftop solar” amounts to a “massive bait and switch” for both the solar industry and more than 12,000 customers including school for what SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive is calling, “what appears to be an attempt to protect profits of the state’s largest utility”.
“This is a very difficult decision but Governor Sandoval and his PUC leave us no choice. The people of Nevada have consistently chosen solar, but yesterday their state government decided to end customer choice, damage the state’s economy, and jeopardize thousands of jobs,” said Rive. “The PUC has protected NV Energy’s monopoly, and everyone else will lose. We have no alternative but to cease Nevada sales and installations, but we will fight this flawed decision on behalf of our Nevada customers and employees.” The decision to raise solar fees ways made right before the holidays.
Rive says Governor Sandoval’s Office of Economic Development helped bring SolarCity to Nevada in 2013, and encouraged the company to create local jobs. Accepting the Governor’s invitation, the company expanded to Nevada and has hired more than 2,000 local workers in just over two years. The state also created a rebate program to entice Nevadans to go solar, and many took advantage. The rooftop solar industry helped Nevada become number one in the nation in solar jobs per capita in 2014. With abundant sunshine and a populace eager to adopt solar energy and save on electricity bills, the industry was poised to become a cornerstone of the state’s innovation economy. All three members of the PUC, who voted unanimously to change the rules, were appointed by Governor Sandoval.
“Most disturbing is the PUC’s decision to retroactively sabotage existing solar customers’ investments by changing the rules on them,” continued Rive. “The Nevada government encouraged these people to go solar with financial incentives and pro-solar policies, and now the same government is punishing them for their decision with new costs they couldn’t have foreseen. These actions are certainly unethical, unprecedented, and possibly unlawful. While the rest of the country embraces a clean energy future, Nevada is moving backwards.”