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Record Year Pushes U.S. to Second-Strongest Solar Market in the World
Last year ended in record-setting fashion for new solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in the U.S., but that's not exactly a surprise to some.
“Each year, the final quarter in the U.S. results in a new quarterly record for solar PV installed,” Michael Barker, a senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz, said. “The solar PV industry in the U.S. is, on average, now installing more than one gigawatt of solar PV each quarter.”
According to NPD Solarbuzz's latest report, a record 1.4 gigawatts (GW) of new solar PV energy were installed during the last three months of 2013. That amount is equivalent to more than 1 megawatt (MW) of solar panels being installed during each hour of daylight for three months.
The U.S. also set a record for the entire calendar year with 4.2 GW of installations. That pushes the country to the strongest solar market in the world behind only the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.
More than 80 percent of the solar energy installed last year were for large-scale projects. Those ground-mounted and large roof projects accounted for 3.5 GW. The remaining 700 MW were for small residences and businesses and represented a 10-percent increase from 2012.
However, reports from Mercom Capital Group and GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association believe residential projects are driving solar growth in the U.S. According to Mercom, residential and commercial lease funds combined for solar projects totaling $3.34 billion last year.
A report from The Los Angeles Times saw things in a different light than all three organizations. While each entity might define "large-scale" differently, the Times report states that only three large projects went online last year—two in California and one in Nevada. The leader of a solar institute agreed that it was a slow time for larger initiatives.
"I would say we are in an assessment period," said Amit Ronen, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute. "Nobody's going to break ground on any big new solar projects right now—utilities want to see how farms coming online this year fit into the grid, and developers are waiting for more certainty about state policies and federal tax credits."
APAC countries are expected to install more than 23 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV in 2014, which would set a new record for solar PV installed annually within any region, according to NPD Solarbuzz. Eighty percent of module production also coming from the region.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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