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World's Largest Solar Park to Also Host World's Tallest Solar Tower

The Dubai government has awarded a $3.9 billion contract to construct the 700-megawatt fourth and final phase of the world-record-holding Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.

The project also includes the construction of an 850-foot-tall solar tower that receives focused sunlight, the world's tallest such structure once complete.

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Screenshot of Energy.gov's Sunshot Initiative website.

Trump Energy Dept. Boasts About Reaching Obama's Solar Cost Reduction Goal

As the Trump administration tries to dismantle years of hard-won climate regulations in favor of fossil fuel development, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) boasted about reaching a renewable energy goal, enacted by President Obama, three years early.

The DOE announced Tuesday that the solar industry has achieved the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the SunShot Initiativea program that launched in 2011 to cut costs to six cents per kilowatt-hour in order to broadly deploy solar energy systems around the nation.

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Can Emissions Shrink While the Economy Grows?

What does climate change have to do with economic growth? Canada's prime minister and premiers signed a deal in December to "grow our economy, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and build resilience to the impacts of a changing climate." The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change outlines plans for carbon pricing, energy-efficient building codes, electric vehicle charging stations, methane emission regulations and more.

Is the framework correct in assuming we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and grow the economy? If not, which should be given precedence?

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U.S. Solar Industry Sees Phenomenal Growth

The U.S. solar market continued its years-long expansion in the second quarter of 2017 as the industry installed 2,387 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV), the largest total in a second quarter to date. This tops Q1's total and represents an 8 percent year-over-year gain, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said in the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report.

"This report shows once again that solar is on the rise and will continue to add to its share of electricity generation," said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA's president and CEO. "Last year, solar companies added jobs 17 times faster than the rest of the economy and increased our GDP by billions of dollars. We are going to continue to fight for policies that allow the industry to continue this phenomenal growth."

All three U.S. solar market segments—commercial, residential and utility-scale—experienced quarter-over-quarter growth in Q2. The U.S. installed 2,044 MW of capacity in Q1. The non-residential and utility-scale market segments also posted year-over-year growth.

FIGURE: U.S. Quarterly PV Installations Q1 2012-Q2 2017

GTM Research / SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, Q3 2017

The non-residential market grew a robust 31 percent year-over-year, with 437 MW installed. That was driven in large part by favorable time-of-use rates in California, expiring incentives in Massachusetts, and a record-breaking quarter in New York, where a number of remote, net metered projects were completed.

Joining those states in the top 10 for additions in Q2 were long-time solar leaders such as Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina, as well as surprises like Minnesota and Mississippi, which had the 5th and 9th largest markets in the quarter, respectively. Texas, which is projected to be the second largest state solar market over the next five years, had its strongest quarter ever, adding 378 MW in Q2, placing it 2nd among states this quarter.

The utility-scale segment represented 58 percent of the PV capacity installed in the quarter. In fact, Q2 marked the seventh straight quarter in which the U.S. added more than a gigawatt (GW) of utility-scale solar.

According to the report, 563 MW of residential solar PV was installed in the U.S. in the second quarter of the year. While this is a slight uptick over the first quarter, it represents a 17 percent decline year-over-year.

"Slowdown in residential solar is largely a function of national installers scaling back operations in major state markets as they prioritize profitability over growth," explained GTM Research Solar Analyst Austin Perea. "While California was the first major market to exhibit signs of slow-down in Q1, many major Northeast markets began to feel the impact of national installer pull-back in Q2 despite a stable policy environment and strong market fundamentals."

The report forecast that the solar industry will add 12.4 GW of new capacity this year, down slightly from GTM Research's previous forecast of 12.6 GW.

The report did not change its forecast that the American solar industry would triple cumulative capacity over the next five years.

However, trade relief, which is being considered by the U.S. International Trade Commission, could radically affect the solar outlook and "would result in a substantial downside revision to our forecast for all three segments," the analysis said.

In a June report, GTM Research said that the requested floor price, if approved, would cut cumulative demand in half over the next five years. SEIA says the petition could cause the solar industry to shed 88,000 jobs just in 2018. Last year, U.S. solar companies added 51,000 workers.

Key Findings

  • In Q2 2017, the U.S. market installed 2,387 MWdc of solar PV, an 8 percent increase year-over-year and the largest second quarter ever.
  • Through the first half of 2017, 22 percent of all new electric capacity brought online in the U.S. has come from solar, ranking second over that time period to natural gas.
  • Suniva's filing of a Section 201 petition to impose trade remedies on foreign-manufactured cells and modules threatens to significantly reduce PV installations across all segments if accepted in its current form.
  • The residential sector grew 1percent quarter-over-quarter. The slow growth rate is caused by relative weakness in the California market and a slowdown in Northeast markets, which are feeling the impact of the pull-back from national providers.
  • In contrast to residential PV, the non-residential sector grew 31 percent year-over-year primarily driven by regulatory demand pull-in from policy deadlines in California and Massachusetts.
  • Voluntary procurement has emerged as the primary driver of new utility PV procurement, accounting for 59 percent of new procurement through H1 2017.
  • Installed system prices remain low across all market segments, with fixed-tilt utility-scale systems remaining under the $1/watt barrier for the second consecutive quarter.
  • GTM Research forecasts that 12.4 GWdc of new PV installations will come on-line in 2017.
  • Total installed U.S. solar PV capacity is expected to nearly triple over the next five years. By 2022, 31 states will have more than 100 MW annual solar markets—with 25 states being home to more than 1 GW of capacity—and more than 16 GW of solar PV capacity will be installed annually.
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World's Largest Chocolate Maker Pledges $1 Billion to Fight Climate Change

Mars Inc., the candy giant and maker of M&Ms, Skittles and Twix, announced it is spending $1 billion on its Sustainable in a Generation initiative to fight climate change.

According to Fortune, the $35 billion chocolate company already has wind farms in Texas and Scotland that power its U.S. and UK operations. Under the new initiative, Mars is pledging to add wind and solar farms to another nine countries by 2018 and is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain by 27 percent by 2025 and 67 percent by 2050.

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Turning Solar Sites Into Pollinator-Friendly Habitats Is the Sweetest Idea

A married couple in Minnesota found a genius use for the swaths of land occupied by solar systems—coupling them as pollinator-friendly habitats.

Travis and Chiara Bolton of St. Paul-based Bolton Bees partner with solar companies to host commercial bee operations. So far, the Boltons have established hives at Connexus Energy, the largest customer-owned power company in Minnesota, and at solar facilities in Farmington and Scandia owned by NRG Energy.

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PNM, the largest electricity provider in New Mexico, has more than 1 million solar panels at 15 different solar sites to provide clean energy for the state.

Santa Fe Aiming for 100% Renewable Energy by 2025

New Mexico's capital has joined the growing movement of U.S. cities committing to 100 percent renewable energy.

On Wednesday, Santa Fe's City Council unanimously adopted Mayor Javier Gonzales' resolution directing City Manager Brian Snyde to develop a feasibility study on how the city can transition to renewables by 2025. Snyde will report the findings in 90 days.

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Electricity From Renewables and Nuclear Power in Statistical Dead Heat

The latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information's (EIA) Electric Power Monthly (with data through June 30) reveals that renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar—inc. small-scale PV and wind) remain in a statistical dead heat with nuclear power vis-à-vis their respective shares of the nation's electrical generation, with each providing roughly 20 percent of the total.

During the six-month period (January — June), renewables surpassed nuclear power in three of those months (March, April and May) while nuclear power took the lead in the other three. In total, according to EIA's data, utility-scale renewables plus small-scale solar PV provided 20.05 percent of U.S. net electrical generation compared to 20.07 percent for nuclear power. However, renewables may actually hold a small lead because while EIA estimates the contribution from distributed PV, it does not include electrical generation by distributed wind, micro-hydro or small-scale biomass.

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Jimmy Carter Talks Solar Energy

I grew up on a farm outside of Plains, Georgia. It was the Great Depression years; we didn't have electricity or running water. The first appliance we had was a windmill, for piping water into our house.

In fact, we didn't have any gasoline or diesel motors for a number of decades; mules and horses did all the work. We got all our energy from growing corn—the animals that we worked, the animals that we ate, and all the human beings depended on corn as just about our only fuel. We were totally renewable back then.

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