2013 Sunshine Year
Last year was a banner year for solar. Approximately 4,300 MW of PV came online, that’s 27% growth over 2012 installation totals. Q3 2013 was the second largest quarter in the PV history, installing 930 Megawatts. An estimated 800 MW of CSP was expected to be commissioned by the end of 2013. All together, the new solar electric capacity added in 2013 is expected to have generated enough clean energy to power over 850,000 average American homes. Powering the demand are the dropping prices. On average the price of a PV system installed has come down 16% to $3/W, with panel prices down by more than 60% since 2011.
Renewables accounted for about 37% of the new capacity installed in 2013, looking at utility-scale development. But note that rooftop solar on home and businesses is averaging over 100 MW of new capacity every month recently. Businesses mean business when it comes to solar. The top 25 companies installing solar have amassed 445 MW of solar PV capacity across the country, that’s up from about 300 MW last year according to SEIA. The leader last year was Walmart installing 89.43 MW. Costco, Kohl’s and Apple followed with 47, 06, 44.72, and 40.73 MW respectively.
2014 Shine Bright Like a Diamond
100% of new U.S. generating capacity came from renewable energy in January according to EarthTechling. That includes a whopping 287 megawatts of solar! Renewables accounted for virtually all of the new utility-scale generating capacity installed in the United States in the month of January – pretty impressive.
February saw the debut of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the world’s largest source of solar power with a capacity of 392 megawatts. This CSP system will generate enough power for 140,000 homes in California. Located in the Mojave Desert, Ivanpah is a joint venture by NRG Energy, Google, and Brightsource Energy.
Two new solar projects were approved on public lands between California and Nevada that would have a combined capacity of 550 megawatts, enough to power 170,000 homes. These two projects are part of the President’s plan to get 20 gigawatts of renewable energy installed on public lands by 2020. The Stateline Solar Farm Project in San Bernardino County represents 300-megawatt, this solar PV plant will generate enough electricity for 90,000 homes. The Silver State South Solar Project near Primm, NV will be a 250 MW plant. Both projects have been proposed by First Solar.
Solar employment in the U.S. was up by 20 percent in 2013 to nearly 143,000 jobs. Vermont has the highest number of solar jobs per capita, Massachusetts solar workforce grew 33%, New York’s 52% and Texas’s 59%. Solar employers in California are bullish about hiring, anticipating the creation of 10,500 new jobs (up 22%) which would push the total to over 50,000 solar jobs in the state in 2014. The Solar Jobs Census indicated the creation of an additional 435,000 indirect and induced jobs.
Solar financing is coming of age in 2014 – solar, other renewables, and energy efficiency investments are becoming democratized. A number of yield focused investments available to small investors are coming to light, and there’s even solar crowd funding platform, Solar Mosaic. This year, SunEdison Inc. has registered for what is likely to become the first US IPO of a solar yieldco; Grid Essence and CleanREIT Partners are currently raising funds for solar yieldcos to be listed in Canada according to Tm Konrad in “Solar Investing Grows Up”.
According to clean energy expert Jigar Shah in “The Solar Energy Outlook for 2014”, the U.S. solar market is one of the most heavily underestimated in the world today. “I think you’re going to see extraordinary growth in the U.S. next year, through 2016,” Shah confidently stated. “Many are projecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 to 8,000 megawatts in 2016. But that number could easily be doubled to 14 gigawatts in 2016 alone.”