U.S. Solar Industry on Course to Have Record-Shattering Year
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Green Tech Media Research (GTM) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today release U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2nd Quarter 2013, the definitive analysis of solar power markets in the U.S., with strategic state-specific data for 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
Showing continued growth in the solar market, this quarter’s report finds that the U.S. installed 832 megawatts (MW) in the second quarter (Q2) in 2013, representing 15 percent growth over the first quarter of this year. It was solar’s second best quarter ever.
The largest share of photovoltaic (PV) installations came from the utility sector, with 38 completed projects totaling 452 MW, a jump of 42 percent over last quarter. The residential market experienced a slight hiccup in Q2 2013, breaking its streak of incremental quarterly growth with a flat quarter, and in the non-residential (commercial) market, only 13 out of the 28 states tracked in the report showed quarterly growth. However, the report forecasts a resumption of growth in the second half of 2013, with 4.4 GW of PV expected to come online this year, up from 3.3 GW in 2012, an overall annual growth rate of thirty percent.
As always, the solar market experienced significant variability across states in Q2 2013. California installations increased seven percent over Q1 2013 despite the end of incentives in some states—an indicator of solar’s increasing competitiveness. Overall, 20 of the 28 states tracked in the report are on pace to increase their annual installation of solar energy over 2012.
“Distributed generation is the big story in the U.S. solar market this year,” said Shayle Kann, Vice President of Research at GTM. “We expect significant growth, especially in the residential sector, but the future will be dictated by the increasingly-complex nexus between the solar industry and utilities.”
Looking at the U.S. solar market on the whole, U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2nd Quarter 2013 forecasts more than five gigawatts (GW) of PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) will be installed by the end of 2013. At that time, cumulative solar PV capacity will surpass 10 GW.
“America’s solar energy industry remains on course to have another record-shattering year,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. "Today, there’s more than 9,370 megawatts (MW) of total solar electric capacity across the U.S.—enough to power more than 1.5 million American homes, including the White House."
"We’re helping to create new jobs, grow the U.S. economy, strengthen our nation’s long-term energy security and fight climate change," Resch concluded. "That’s a win-win in anyone’s book.”
Key Report Findings:
- PV installations totaled 832 MW in Q2 2013, up 15 percent over Q1 2013
- Cumulative operating PV capacity in the U.S. now stands at 8,858 MW
- 4,372 MW of PV are forecast to be installed in 2013, up from 3,366 MW in 2012, a 30 percent growth rate
- The utility market completed 38 projects totaling 452 MW; there are currently 4.1 GW of utility-scale projects in construction
- The residential market was flat quarter-over-quarter, breaking its streak of incremental quarterly growth
- The non-residential market was down in Q2, continuing a relatively light year for the segment
- BrightSource Energy’s 392 MWac Ivanpah CSP project is on schedule to deliver electricity to the grid in late 2013
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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