Quantcast

Solar Growth Explodes In October

Business

Even though they were overshadowed by the Senate’s historic decision to eliminate the use of the filibuster when it comes to most Presidential nominees—the so-called “nuclear option”—there were some major developments this week at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that are critically important to solar and renewable energy.

First, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, who proclaimed earlier this year that, “solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” announced that he’s officially leaving his position at the end of the week. Chairman Wellinghoff has been a true champion to solar, and we wish him well in all of his new endeavors.

But before leaving, Wellinghoff presided over one last Commission meeting on Thursday as a new rule was approved by FERC that will expedite and reduce the cost of solar project interconnections, while maintaining the reliability and safety of the electric grid. In a nutshell, this action—which SEIA has championed for nearly two years—will help to spur new solar deployment nationwide. The rule was approved by a 4-0 vote with Chairman Wellinghoff abstaining because of a possible conflict of interest.

Twelve new solar units accounted for 504 MW or 72.1 percent of all new capacity last month in the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Photo credit: SEIA

Here’s the back story. In 2005, FERC issued Order No. 2006, which—for the first time—established national interconnection procedures applicable to generation projects that are 20 megawatts (MW) or less in size and subject to FERC’s wholesale jurisdiction. Order No. 2006 was groundbreaking at the time, and the procedures were voluntarily adopted by many states to also apply to the retail interconnection process. However, demand for solar energy has grown dramatically since the original order was issued more than seven years ago, and certain aspects of the order have resulted in needless barriers to cost-effective and timely interconnections.

The approved rule will allow solar projects that meet certain technical requirements to qualify for a “fast track” interconnection process, thus eliminating the need for costly and time-consuming studies. Most importantly, today’s decision will help to reduce interconnection bottlenecks.

As an association, we applaud FERC for recognizing the challenges facing wholesale distributed generation development, which is one of the fastest-growing segments of America’s solar energy industry. But it’s important to point out that the new rule also maintains electric system safety and reliability, making it a win all the way around.

This is the way government should work. We deeply appreciate FERC’s open-minded approach and willingness to revisit this issue based on unforeseen developments. We look forward to working with FERC and all other interested stakeholders in the future to help further the deployment of clean, reliable and affordable solar energy nationwide. SEIA is also urging state regulators to consider using FERC’s new rule as a model and starting point for updating their own interconnection rules.

And, finally, this brings me to the other really good news coming out of FERC this week. According to the agency’s Energy Infrastructure Update report, 99.3 percent of all new electric generation placed in service during the month of October came from renewables—with solar leading the way by a country mile! 

Twelve new solar units accounted for 504 MW or 72.1 percent of all new capacity last month. This is truly astonishing, not to mention historic, and should serve as a reminder to everyone in Washington and in state capitals that smart public policies—such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS)—are paying huge dividends for America.

Today, solar is one of the fastest-growing sources of new energy in the United States. More than 30 utility-scale, clean energy solar projects are still under construction, putting thousands of electricians, steelworkers and laborers to work and helping to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. These facilities, along with rooftop solar on homes, businesses and schools, will generate electricity for generations to come.

There are now more than 9,400 megawatts (MW) of cumulative solar electric capacity installed in the U.S. —enough to power more than 1.5 million American homes—and that number is expected to hit nearly 13,000 MW by the end of this year.

In addition, SEIA recently released a comprehensive new report outlining ways to create 50,250 new American jobs and save more than $61 billion in future energy costs by expanding the use of innovative and cost-effective solar heating and cooling (SHC) systems across the nation.

Today, solar employs nearly 120,000 Americans at more than 6,100 companies, most of which are small businesses spread across the United States, making solar one of the fastest-growing industries in America. Part of this amazing growth is attributed to the fact that the cost of a solar system has dropped by nearly 40 percent over the past two years, making solar more affordable—and more popular—than ever. And as solar continues to scale up, costs will continue to come down.

So in a week filled with high drama on Capitol Hill, you could say that solar—in its own unique way—has become the new “nuclear option” when it comes to helping America meet its future energy needs.

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting regular cholesterol tests shortly after you turn 20. Ca-ssis / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Many people don't begin worrying about their cholesterol levels until later in life, but that may be increasing their odds of heart problems in the long term.

Read More Show Less
A child receives a measles vaccine. DFID - UK Department for International Development / CC BY 2.0

Measles infected nearly 10 million people in 2018 and killed more than 140,000, according to new estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of the people who died were children under five years old.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Ocean pollution concept with plastic and garbage pictured in Sri Lanka. Nestle is among the top corporate plastic polluters, according to a report called BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World's Top Corporate Plastic Polluters. Anton Petrus / Moment / Getty Images

Nestlé cannot claim that its Ice Mountain bottled water brand is an essential public service, according to Michigan's second highest court, which delivered a legal blow to the food and beverage giant in a unanimous decision.

Read More Show Less

A number of supermarkets across the country have voluntarily issued a recall on sushi, salads and spring rolls distributed by Fuji Food Products due to a possible listeria contamination, as CBS News reported.

Read More Show Less
Birds eye view of beach in Green Bowl Beach, Indonesia pictured above, a country who's capital city is faced with the daunting task of moving its capital city of Jakarta because of sea level rise. Tadyanehondo / Unsplash

If you read a lot of news about the climate crisis, you probably have encountered lots of numbers: We can save hundreds of millions of people from poverty by 2050 by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but policies currently in place put us on track for a more than three degree increase; sea levels could rise three feet by 2100 if emissions aren't reduced.

Read More Show Less