The U.S. installed 930MW of PV solar in the third quarter of 2013, representing the second largest quarter in the history of the U.S. solar market. The residential segment showed an impressive increase of 45% year-over-year and posted its largest quarter ever with 186 MW installed. This year is likely to be the first year in more than 15 years in which the U.S. installs more solar capacity than world leader Germany.
Infographics provide an effective way to share information with colleagues and customers. Though it was hard to pick the cream of the crop out of so many good ones out there, we’ve gathered a selection we think captures some of the best. Pass along these top picks that highlight current issues in the industry.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves a rule that will expedite and reduce the cost of solar project interconnections, while maintaining the reliability and safety of the electric grid. The new rule will help to spur new solar deployment nationwide.
The tone was upbeat as Solar Power International kicked off in the Windy City on Monday this week. Speakers proclaimed that it's solar's time to shine, while cautioning that we must pull together to ensure the industry's continued strength.
From large and leading corporations to small, local companies, U.S. businesses are making significant investments in solar to cut energy costs, improving their bottom line, and staying ahead of competition. Electricity costs represent the single largest operating expense for many companies. In today’s increasingly competitive business environment, solar means business.
Federal solar tax credits, state subsidies, manufacturer rebates, technological advances, and solar installation loans decrease the cost of going solar, driving record sales and consumption of solar power. The average price of residential and commercial PV systems fell 6-14% in 2012; solar energy consumption in Q1 2013 was approximately 33% higher than the same period in 2012.
Brinser and Brightbill express themselves highly skeptical of SEIA's proposal regarding settlement of the ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China.
[Updated 09/24/2013, 2:00pm] SEIA offers a compromise between U.S. and Chinese solar industries to end the ongoing trade tensions. The proposal promotes a fair and negotiated settlement of outstanding issues; benefits end users; and encourages the rise of solar energy in the United States and globally.
PV Solar Report Contributor
Momentum, transformation, diversification: these words describe today’s dynamic solar industry. That’s according to Rhone Resch of Solar Energy Industries Association, Arno Harris of Recurrent Energy, and Shayle Kann of Greentech Media, who reviewed the state of the industry at a recent Google Hangout presented by SEIA and GTM.
Executive summary: Solar experienced strong growth in 2012. And despite the significant challenges that remain, solar is becoming mainstream.
Momentum and transformation
Drawing from the SEIA/GTM 2012 report, Resch noted that last year we installed 3,313 MW of solar in the US, a 76% growth over 2011. That represents 40% of all solar capacity in the US today, and led to the US becoming one of the most important markets in the world. American workers installed 2 panels per second, adding up to 16 billion panels -- enough to power 1.2 million households.
It goes without saying -- but I’ll say it anyway -- that as the solar industry grows, it creates jobs, many of which can’t be outsourced. Over 120,000 people are currently employed by the US solar industry, and that doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands of others who work with them.
What’s driven this growth? Resch stressed that policy stability has been a key factor. Since the ITC extension in 2009, solar has taken off -- consistent with what’s happened in other energy industries with stable policies. It’s typical for an energy resource to go through a 30-year period of early adoption and innovation before experiencing rapid growth, and that’s where solar has been. Consistent policies that support solar can help it move through the current transitional phase and continue to play an increasingly significant role.
Of course, another crucial factor in the industry’s growth has been solar’s increased affordability. Average panel costs have plummeted 60% since the beginning of 2011, with the average cost of a completed system decreasing 27% in 2012 alone. In fact, in the past few years solar has leapfrogged from being the most expensive energy form to second or third place in affordability.
Solar’s affordability is not just about panel prices but has also been aided by new financing options. Solar leases have been a huge driver for the residential market. And the industry has proven itself as an attractive asset class. New investment vehicles that could lower the costs of capital, such as Real Estate Investment Trusts and Master Limited Partnerships, are appearing on the scene. PACE programs are taking root in some states. And 2012 was a big year for crowdfunding -- as seen in organizations like Mosaic, which provide financing for smaller to medium projects by letting individuals invest in solar.
The soft costs of permitting, financing, and customer acquisition continue to be an issue, but the SunShot initiative is starting to help reduce those. We’ll see further benefits from this program in the future.
Solar has matured and diversified in the past two years -- both in terms of business models and geographically. In 2012, twelve states installed over 50 MW of solar, compared to just five states in 2011. A few years ago, California accounted for 80% of US installations; now, it represents 30%.
Diversification is also evidenced by strength in all segments of the solar market: residential, non-residential (commercial, governmental, nonprofit, schools), and utility.
The market has diversified, too, in terms of who’s installing solar. That’s no longer confined to early adopters or pilot projects. The fact that solar makes economic sense is shown by its popularity with companies like Apple, FedEx, GM, Google, Macy’s, and Walmart -- not to mention the Department of Defense.
And the widespread appeal of solar extends to the general population. In polls throughout the last five years, Americans have expressed support for greater development of solar energy -- across party lines.
Projections for the near future see the industry continuing to grow. In 2013, solar could become the number 2 source of new-build energy after gas -- and by 2015 or 2016, it could even reach number 1.
This robust growth is tempered by tensions, many in the policy area. As solar becomes a significant part of new energy generation, fossil fuel interests see it as a threat and are challenging policies like net metering and RPS. But SEIA is helping to challenge these attacks, and they have a solid foundation for doing so. Not only are voters supportive of solar, but the distributed generation that solar allows can help stabilize the grid, protecting against power outages and cyber attacks.
Advancements in storage technology will provide a crucial opportunity to address some of these policy issues. After all, with onsite storage, net metering would no longer be needed. And while grid penetration is currently low enough not to require large amounts of storage, in the long term it will become more critical.
The upshot? We need to continue pushing for strong policies that level the playing field for solar. With the right policy climate and advances in storage technology, solar power is set to transform electricity in the United States.
Mid-Atlantic region is now beating California as largest PV installation market, with more potential in 2011; US market growth by segment in 2010, residential +68%, commercial +79%, utility +246%.
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