Solar Deserves a Shout Out!

Guest Blog | January 24, 2014 | Energy Policy, Solar
Today marks the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) 40th anniversary, and the nation’s first “Shout Out for Solar” day! 

And there are many reasons to “shout out” for solar. Over the past forty years technology gains and enormous reductions in price have moved solar from an R&D pipe dream to the energy source Americans want most emphasized.

2013 is projected (final numbers not yet published) to be a record year for solar electric capacity added in the U.S., with 4.3 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV brought online (27% growth over 2012 installations), and about 800 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) commissioned. It’s anticipated that more solar was added to U.S. electricity capacity than any other renewable resource in 2013, and that for the first time in fifteen years the U.S. installed more solar capacity than the current world leader, Germany. 

This boom has been driven in large part by continued price reductions – average installed prices dropped over 16% from Q3 2012 to Q4 2013, and more than 50% since 2010 (see figure). In addition, there are now about 120,000 Americans employed in the U.S. solar industry at more than 6,100 American companies, all of which are contributing to market expansion by reducing market barriers, improving cost efficiencies, and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy.

The southeast is an important part of this story and North Carolina is leading the way with over 380 MW of PV capacity. The Tar Heel state ranks second in the country for the amount of PV capacity added in 2013, dominated by wholesale distributed generation projects – i.e., solar farms. Georgia has also made a name for itself by evolving from a nearly-obsolete solar market into one of the most active states in the country in a matter of months. The state is up to 80 MW of PV capacity installed as of today compared to less than 20 MW a year ago, and is on track to add an additional 725 MW over the next few years due (largely) to a directive from the GA Public Service Commission. TVA, which had over 120 MW of operating or “committed” PV as of mid-2013, continues to maintain a respectable, though less visionary, solar market. Florida has over 130 MW of PV (over 200 MW of solar electric capacity when you include their CSP plant) and, as with TVA, remains a respectable though relatively under-achieving market.

The outlook for 2014 is very strong for solar in the US and globally. SEIA forecasts a 30% growth in new PV installed – even better than what was achieved in 2013 (see figure). The residential market remains one of the hottest growth areas (grew by 52% in 2013), while distributed and transmission-based utility-scale projects will continue to dominate total capacity additions.

A less sunny area for solar in 2013, and potentially 2014, are the challenges posed to net metering regulations, and more generally, the war on solar initiated by utilities and special interest groups such as ALEC. This wave of obstruction became increasingly apparent following EEI’s Disruptive Challenges report published a year ago. However, despite many attacks, 2013 was actually a good year on the regulatory and legislative fronts, with favorable outcomes on net metering decisions occurring in California, Arizona, Louisiana, Idaho, and Georgia. These successful defenses were complimented by new solar deployment programs/announcements in Minnesota, Georgia, Massachusetts, and New York.

The positive outcomes in 2013, coupled with growing bipartisan support and a recognition of the true value solar provides to society and the grid, sets the stage for yet another year deserving of a Shout Out to Solar!

Join us in shouting from the rooftops #GoSolar today, January 24th!

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