Thursday, March 03, 2016

For the First Time, Solar Will Be the Top New Source of Energy this Year

Ivanpah (Credit: AP Photo/John Locher) Click to Enlarge.
For the first time ever utility-scale solar projects will add more new capacity to the nation’s grid than any other industry this year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Tuesday.

Natural gas and wind energy follow somewhat closely, according to the EIA’s monthly report, which notes that solar, gas and wind energy will make up 93 percent of all new energy.  Solar projects will generate about 9.5 gigawatts of new energy.  Natural gas, meanwhile, will add 8 gigawatts, while wind is poised to create 6.8 gigawatts.

One gigawatt is enough energy to power about 700,000 average homes.

“I think it’s great, it’s evidence that the [solar] industry’s moved really into the mainstream,” said Justin Baca, vice president of markets and research at the Solar Energy Industries Association, in an interview with ThinkProgress.  Seven years ago solar energy was proving that it was a real alternative to fossil fuels, he said, but now, “we’ve demonstrated that we are a real significant player in electricity markets.”

The EIA report comes less than a month after the Solar Foundation said the U.S. solar industry now employs slightly over 200,000 workers, representing a growth of 20 percent since November of 2014.

The new report further cements the scale of solar energy growth, since solar additions coming online this year are much higher than the 3.1 GW added to the grid in 2015.  What’s more, this year’s growth would be more than what the industry achieved in the past three years combined.

Just last month officials in southern California unveiled one of the largest solar power plants in the world near Palm Springs.  The top five states where solar capacity is being added are California, North Carolina, Nevada, Texas, and Georgia.

The overall growth of the solar industry is partly attributed to a reduction in costs, a rush to take advantage of federal tax cuts that were recently extended, and beneficial state policies like renewable energy mandates.

Another important player is technological innovations.  Every year solar panels are able to turn more sunlight into energy.  On Wednesday, for instance, Panasonic announced a new efficiency world record of 23.8 percent.  High efficiency panels help drive greater solar deployment and are particularly beneficial for homeowners who are looking into rooftop solar, which was not accounted for in the EIA report.

Read more at For the First Time, Solar Will Be the Top New Source of Energy this Year

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