Quantcast

Solar Industry's Sizzling Start to New Year Could Lead to More Broken Records

With the coldest winter in two decades gripping much of the country this year—and wild price swings for natural gas rattling the markets, not to mention American consumers—it’s easy for many people to overlook the “hot start” in 2014 for solar energy.

But so far this year, it’s been good news followed by even more good news for the U.S. solar industry.

  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report, showing that nearly 90 percent of all new electric generation that came online in January was solar.

  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) formally approved two new utility-scale solar power projects in California and Nevada, totaling 550 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity. Both projects are being developed by First Solar Inc. and mark a regulatory milestone. President Obama’s administration has now approved 50 large-scale renewable energy projects on public lands in the West since 2009—more than half of them for solar.

Photo credit: BrightSource Energy/Flickr

  • The huge $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System—located near the California-Nevada border—was completed, generating enough power for 140,000 homes. This state-of-the-art concentrating solar power (CSP) complex is owned by BrightSource EnergyNRG Energy and Google. San Francisco-based Bechtel, the largest construction company in the United States, provided engineering, procurement, construction and start-up services for the project.

  • Three weeks ago, in his nationally-televised State of the Union address, President Obama gave a personal “shout out” for solar, telling an audience of 35 million people: “Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced.”

  • Four days before the President’s address to Congress, more than 3 million people took part in National “Shout Out For Solar” Day—celebrated as part of SEIA’s 40th anniversary as a national trade association—on FacebookTwitter and other social media platforms. This first-of-its-type event was also enthusiastically supported by hundreds of business and environmental groups nationwide.

  • On the same day, working with its member companies, SEIA launched its new “America Supports Solar” campaign, which highlights solar energy’s explosive growth across the U.S., as well as its record-shattering year in 2013.

It’s estimated that the U.S. now has 13 gigawatts of installed solar capacity—enough to power more than 2 million American homes. What’s more, when all of the 2013 numbers are in, solar is expected to account for more new electric generating capacity in the U.S. than any other renewable energy source.

While 2013 was a record-breaking year, 2014 may be even better with 30 percent growth being forecast. Part of this unprecedented expansion is due to the fact that the average price of a solar system has dropped by more than 50 percent since 2010, benefitting consumers, businesses, schools and government entities.

And guess what?  There’s even more good news on the horizon. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Sunshot Initiative, which is working on ways to make solar more competitive with entrenched energy sources, estimates that by 2020 soft costs should not exceed 65 cents per watt for residential solar systems and 44 cents per watt for commercial systems.

Today, 40 years after SEIA was formed, there are nearly 143,000 Americans employed by the U.S. solar industry at more than 6,100 American companies—with SEIA leading the fight to expand markets, remove market barriers, strengthen the industry and educate Americans about the benefits of solar energy. These efforts have led to the adoption of a wide range of smart public policies, including the solar Investment Tax Credit and net energy metering.

Considering solar energy’s humble beginnings in America, that is a remarkable record of achievement.

But you know what?  The best news flashes are still to come!

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

Sponsored
Prince William and British naturalist David Attenborough attend converse during the World Economic Forum annual meeting, on January 22 in Davos, Switzerland. Fabrice Cofferini /AFP / Getty Images

Britain's Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Switzerland.

During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos this week that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity's survival—is in our hands.

Read More Show Less
EV charging lot in Anaheim, California. dj venus / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Electric vehicle sales took off in 2018, with a record two million units sold around the world, according to a new Deloitte analysis.

What's more, the accounting firm predicts that another 21 million electric cars will be on the road globally over the next decade due to growing market demand for clean transportation, government subsidies, as well as bans on fossil fuel cars.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Teenager Alex Weber and friends collected nearly 40,000 golf balls hit into the ocean from a handful of California golf courses. Alex Weber / CC BY-ND

By Matthew Savoca

Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.

As a scientist researching marine plastic pollution, I thought I had seen a lot. Then, early in 2017, I heard from Alex Weber, a junior at Carmel High School in California.

Read More Show Less
Southwest Greenland had the most consistent ice loss from 2003 to 2012. Eqalugaarsuit, Ostgronland, Greenland on Aug. 1, 2018. Rob Oo / CC BY 2.0

Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.

"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"

Read More Show Less
Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

Read More Show Less
Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

Read More Show Less
Demonstrators participate in a protest march over agricultural policy on Jan. 19 in Berlin, Germany. Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

By Andrea Germanos

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.

Read More Show Less
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Read More Show Less