2013 – Solar Tribune https://solartribune.com Solar Energy News, Analysis, Education Tue, 22 Sep 2020 20:37:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 SunRun opens New Design Center in Irvine https://solartribune.com/sunrun-opens-in-irvine/ Wed, 25 Feb 2015 02:37:13 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8713 San Francisco-based Sunrun, the nation’s largest solar company dedicated to residential systems, is expanding its presence in Orange County, California with the recent opening of a new solar design engineering center in Irvine.

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San Francisco-based Sunrun, the nation’s largest solar company dedicated to residential systems, is expanding its presence in Orange County, California with the recent opening of a new solar design engineering center in Irvine.

Orange County Register, about 50 full-time employees work at the office. Ethan Miller, Sunrun’s senior vice president of operations says that this year, Sunrun plans to hire an additional 50 workers. “We’re interested in expansion and Irvine has a great access to talent,” he said. “We’re doing design and very technical work, and we felt there’s great synergy with other companies and skills sets in the area.”

Sunrun currently serves customers in 11 states– Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania. The design team in the Irvine office will serve customers in all of Sunrun’s service area, not just California.

“All that design work is coming through this hub and being pushed back out,” Miller said. “Every system is a custom design for that house,” which takes into account the home’s orientation and other factors.

The Wall Street Journal recently included SunRun in its list ODF “Ten Billion Dollar Ideas You’ve Never Heard Of.” The Journal Reports: “In 2006, the year before Sunrun Inc.’s founders launched their business, solar energy powered just 30,000 American homes, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. By the end of 2013, there were about 400,000 homes in the country powered by solar, and Sunrun —and its business model— are a big reason why.

In the past, few homeowners were willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a rooftop solar installation that would pay off in smaller utility bills at some distant date in the future. Sunrun was the first company to cover the cost of the solar system installed on a residential roof, own the system, and handle maintenance. Homeowners pay the company monthly for the electricity the system produces, leading to lower utility bills.

Soon after Sunrun began financing panels, arch-rival SolarCity Corp. came out with a similar offering and then, in 2012, went public. The two companies, along with competitors such as Vivint Solar Inc. and SunPower Corp. , are trying to capture a market that appears to have room to grow–less than 1% of American homes have solar.”

There is no doubt that the solar industry has had amazing growth in the last few years, and the expansion of Sunrun is just one indication that even recent entries into the solar marketplace are feeling confident about strong future growth.

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Enviros and Tea Party Agree: Solar is Good for Florida https://solartribune.com/florida-ppa/ Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:24:08 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8703 Far-left environmental activists and far-right small government conservatives may seem like odd allies, but when it comes to making Florida a leader in solar energy, both sides agree. The time has come to open the market to solar power. California, Texas and Florida have a lot in common. They are the nations three most populated […]

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Far-left environmental activists and far-right small government conservatives may seem like odd allies, but when it comes to making Florida a leader in solar energy, both sides agree. The time has come to open the market to solar power.

California, Texas and Florida have a lot in common. They are the nations three most populated states. All three enjoy warm, sunny climates. All three have perfect conditions for producing massive amounts of solar power. However, Florida lags far behind the other two mega-states in solar electricity production. Why?

“Florida is the best solar market in the eastern United States, and it’s clearly underperforming,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which is part of a coalition of groups called Floridians for Solar Choice.

Florida is one of only five states in the United States that by law expressly denies citizens and businesses the freedom to buy solar power electricity directly from someone other than a monopoly electric utility. Now, Floridians for Solar Choice is working to place a question on the 2016 general election ballot asking voters to decide on expanding solar choice to Florida’s families and businesses. The ballot initiative would remove a barrier that currently blocks clean, renewable solar power.

One of the remarkable things about Floridians for Solar Choice is the diversity of its membership. According to In a recent poll, 74% of Florida voters said they would support a proposal to change Florida’s current law and allow Floridians to contract directly with solar companies to power their homes or businesses with solar energy, and the makeup of Floridians for Solar Choice reflects that broad base of support. The impressive list of supporters of Floridians for Solar Choice includes such diverse groups as the Christian Coalition of America, Conservatives for Energy Freedom, Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, Florida Retail Federation, Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, Libertarian Party of Florida, Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, Republican Liberty Caucus of Tampa Bay, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, WTEC, Clean Water Action, Environment Florida, Evangelical Environmental Network, Greenpeace USA, IDEAS for Us, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Florida, ReThink Energy Florida, Sierra Club Florida and The Tea Party Network.

According to a recent article on The Wall Street Journal “…Utilities have long argued that customers should go through them for solar energy because they should help pay for the cost of maintaining the grid, which they still rely on for at least part of the day.”NA-CE750A_SOLAR_9U_20150220171510

Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Duke Energy Florida, which provides electricity in the central and northern part of the state, said the company was committed to working with lawmakers “to achieve energy policies, incorporating solar, that are fair and beneficial to all of our customers.”

As with the wind power industry before solar, many state-sanctioned monopoly utility providers have attempted to hold independent renewable energy generators at bay until the cost of solar production drops to the point at which it is profitable for them to jump in to the market. Now, utility companies like Duke Energy are looking to develop “Community Solar” projects. These “Solar Farms” do offer customers the option of buying clean energy and offsetting dirty coal powered generation, but without the personal and local economic benefits of rooftop solar. In addition, utility-scale solar continues reliance on an aging transmission and distribution system.

“What’s happening now in Florida is really blocking the free market,” said Tory Perfetti, state director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom. Meanwhile, activists in Georgia, Utah, Colorado and Iowa have all recently fought to open up their states electricity market to third party power providers.

Solar growth in states that allow third party power purchase agreement, particularly in the form of solar leases, illustrates clearly that the inability of Floridians to purchase solar power electricity directly from someone other than a monopoly electric utility is one of the major reasons that Florida’s Solar industry has not taken off. In California, for instance, solar installations skyrocketed with the implementation of solar lease agreements. According to a 2013 report from the Climate Policy Initiative:
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“Recently, steep solar panel cost reductions as well as strong federal and state policy supports have helped to catalyze substantial growth in rooftop solar PV deployment in California. Interestingly, this growth has happened in the face of declining financial incentives for solar installations at the state level through the California Solar Initiative. This growth has also been accompanied by a shift in market demand: Most homeowners in California are no longer purchasing the panels on their rooftops, they are leasing them. Over 75% of California’s new residential solar systems in 2012 were leased as compared to less than 10% in 2007.”

The fact that solar installations in California went up “in the face of declining financial incentives” is key to the successful alliance of far-right and far left in Georgia, and now in Florida. $0 up-front costs make installation a no-brainer for many people who want to make the jump to solar with little or no additional cost. Small-government, anti-tax conservatives like the “no government incentives” aspect of third party leases, and see it as a free-market solution which provides the individual with more energy independence. They are not required to agree with their environmentalist allies’ carbon-reduction goals or desire to reduce the effects of anthropogenic climate change.

Debbie Dooley, of the Georgia Tea Party and the Green Tea coalition stated the position clearly in an essay she wrote for Grist:

“The premise is simple: Those who believe in the free market need to reexamine the way our country produces energy. Giant utility monopolies deserve at least some competition, and consumers should have a choice. It’s just that simple, and it’s consistent with the free-market principles that have been a core value of the Tea Party since we began in 2009.”

Could the far-right and far-left find common ground on other issues? With the increased influence of corporate money in politics and the increase in government surveillance of citizens, it is within the realm of possibility that we may see these groups reunite again in the future over issues.

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New Report: California Leads the Nation in Solar Job Growth https://solartribune.com/california-leads-in-solar-jobs/ Thu, 12 Feb 2015 16:06:21 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8653 The Solar Foundation’s California Solar Jobs Census Finds that California Solar Jobs Grew by Nearly 16% Last Year with Nearly 10,000 More Solar Jobs Expected in 2015. The non-profit research group The Solar Foundation (TSF), released its California Solar Jobs Census 2014 this week, and news was good for the California solar job market. The […]

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The Solar Foundation’s California Solar Jobs Census Finds that California Solar Jobs Grew by Nearly 16% Last Year with Nearly 10,000 More Solar Jobs Expected in 2015.

The non-profit research group The Solar Foundation (TSF), released its California Solar Jobs Census 2014 this week, and news was good for the California solar job market. The new report found that the solar industry employed 54,690 people in California in 2014, nearly 7,500 solar jobs more than the previous year. This represents 15.8 percent growth in California solar industry employment since November 2013. Additionally, California solar employment grew 10 times faster than overall employment in the state during the same period.
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“California’s solar industry has once again proven to be a powerful engine of economic growth and job creation,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “California solar jobs have grown quite rapidly over the last few years, and the solar industry is continuing to attract highly-skilled, well-paid professionals. That growth is putting people back to work and strengthening California’s diverse economy.”

“For decades, our state has been on the cutting edge of clean energy innovations and solar deployment,” said California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. “We’re very proud that we continue to be first in the nation in solar jobs – and to see 16% solar job growth in 2014 reaffirms our leadership in this industry.”
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The full National Solar Jobs Census and State Solar Jobs Census reports with district level jobs for California, Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, Texas and New York are available at www.TSFcensus.org. Job numbers and rankings of economic indicators for all 50 states are available in The Solar Foundation’s updated State Solar Jobs Map at www.SolarStates.org.

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Solar Profile: Erica Johnson, Sullivan Solar https://solartribune.com/solar-profile-erica-johnson-sullivan-solar/ Wed, 11 Feb 2015 23:36:07 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8546 Starting this week, Solar Tribune will feature a series profiling committed individuals who are helping to lead the way to a brighter future, powered by clean, solar energy. The first in our series showcases the work of Erica Johnson from Sullivan Solar Power. Sullivan Solar Power is one of California’s top solar power companies. Based […]

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Starting this week, Solar Tribune will feature a series profiling committed individuals who are helping to lead the way to a brighter future, powered by clean, solar energy. The first in our series showcases the work of Erica Johnson from Sullivan Solar Power. Sullivan Solar Power is one of California’s top solar power companies. Based in San Diego County, Sullivan serves all of Southern California. Erica serves as the Marketing and Communications manager.

Erica was one of the nominees for San Diego Magazine’s “2013 Women Who Move the City,” and was responsible for the partnership that Sullivan Solar forged with the Non-Profit Grid Alternatives to provide free solar electric systems to low-income families.

Sullivan Solar's Erica Johnson - Alon David Photography

Sullivan Solar’s Erica Johnson – Alon David Photography

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Please tell our readers a little about your background, and how you got into the solar industry.

My educational background is in Business Administration and Public Relations. I found my passion for environmental sustainability at San Diego State University, where I was actively engaged in student leadership. I spent majority of my college years focusing on transitioning the campus to a clean energy future, and was responsible for chairing a board that allocated money to sustainable upgrades on campus. I learned about solar energy and became enamored by photovoltaic technology. With the abundance of solar radiation we receive in Southern California, I decided that I would spend my life’s work putting solar on every rooftop in the region.


How many years have you been with Sullivan Solar Power?

I have been with the company nearly 6 years.

Tell us a little about Sullivan Solar Power and your role there.

Sullivan Solar Power is a turnkey solar provider that designs each project from concept to completion, using the highest quality products and most well-trained employees that this industry has to offer. The company, which services all of Southern California, has installed more solar in the SDG&E territory than any other company. In 2014, Sullivan Solar Power celebrated a decade in business, and became the first NABCEP-accredited company in San Diego and Orange County; and the fourth in the nation.

At Sullivan Solar Power, I directly manage the marketing and communications efforts to promote our company’s services. I oversee the Community Development department and am responsible for coordinating market research, marketing strategy, advertising, promotions and public relations activities.

What do you find exciting about the projects that you are currently working on?

Currently, we are in an extremely interested time to be working in the solar industry. There are a lot of changes on the horizon with the Net Energy Metering cap closely approaching in the SDG&E territory, and the tax credit also expiring in 2016. I am very excited to be politically engaged, and being a part of the changing energy policy in California.

If you were to choose three words that you would like readers to associate with Sullivan Solar Power and its products, what would they be, and why?

Quality- Sullivan Solar Power only uses the highest quality products, installed by quality professionals to deliver quality systems. We do not subcontract our work, which is only done by state licensed electricians. Our skilled labor is the highest trained that the industry has to offer.
Reputation – Sullivan Solar Power has been serving Southern California for more than a decade. We have more than 3,500 residential, commercial and municipal customers. High profile clienst include the City of San Diego, the Port of Long Beach, UC San Diego, and even SDG&E has hire us to install solar for their facilities.
Proven- Sullivan Solar Power is one of the longest standing solar companies in Southern California, and we have proven that we can deliver. We do one thing – and we do it exceedingly well.

Where do you see Sullivan Solar Power fitting into the solar industry now, and where would you like Sullivan Solar Power to be in 5-10 years?

Sullivan Solar Power is the leader in San Diego, and is a powerful company in Orange and Riverside Counties. I see us continuing to grow our market share throughout Southern California, and expanding into other regions over the next 5 years.

Where do you see areas for growth in solar, and what are the roadblocks to achieving market growth?

As battery technology improves and becomes cheaper, I think we will see a lot more property owners looking to go off-the-grid. Roadblocks for growth are competing interests that do not wish to see people declare energy independence. Policy and legislation that support energy interests outside of renewables.

If you care to, tell us a little about your passions outside of solar.

I am passionate about scuba diving, yoga, travel and other cultures, music, and making the world a better place for future generations.

Erica Johnson - Alon David Photography

Erica Johnson – Alon David Photography

To learn more about Sullivan Solar, visit our page on solar companies serving San Diego.

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Solar Thermal Technology: Will It Survive? https://solartribune.com/solar-thermal-technology-will-it-survive/ Mon, 02 Feb 2015 18:47:41 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8521 Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) has definitely taken a back seat to Photovoltaics (PV) in the last few years when it comes to solar electricity generation, but solar thermal technologies are still far from obsolete. With PV’s installed price continuing its multi-year decline, there are some questions about the viability of solar thermal technologies. Solar thermal […]

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Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) has definitely taken a back seat to Photovoltaics (PV) in the last few years when it comes to solar electricity generation, but solar thermal technologies are still far from obsolete.

With PV’s installed price continuing its multi-year decline, there are some questions about the viability of solar thermal technologies. Solar thermal for both residential scale water and space heating as well as utility scale electricity generation were long thought to have better economic potential than PV. As recently as 2008, Home Power magazine was reporting that Solar Domestic Hot Water (SDHW) was paying back 2 ½ times faster than PV for residential use. Then, the installed cost of PV began to drop, and dropped more than 50% between 2007 and 2014. By 2013, Renewable Energy World was reporting that “…household-level solar water heating comes with so many unnecessary drawbacks that it is clear the future lies in another direction. Solar photovoltaic is a highly-effective source for a heat-pump water-heating system.” PV panel prices are so low right now that by most reports it is actually more cost effective to use PV for space heating or hot water than are conventional solar thermal systems.

As for large scale projects, construction of CSP generating stations in the US have all but halted, although the technology seems to be going strong in North Africa and the Middle East. Despite the rapid decline in PV prices and the advances in efficiency, CSP has made advances as well, including new projects that include up to 16 hours of energy storage, allowing CSP plants to make power much more consistently than PV. So why is CSP flourishing in the Middle East and languishing in the US? RP Seigel of justmeans.com reports: “In Arizona, the Solana plant, built by Abengoa … has the additional feature of thermal storage that allows it to provide power through most of the night as well, only without the use of fossil fuels. This accomplishment represents a sort of Holy Grail for renewables, yet, despite this, it’s unclear whether the company will build another one of these, either. In this case, it’s because of uncertainty about the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) which is due to expire at its current 30% level in 2016…”

Abengoa CSP plant in Arizona  photo:cspworld.com

Agengoa CSP plant in Arizona photo:cspworld.com


In addition to the highly politicized nature of the energy sector in the US, it is a simple fact that CSP suits the needs of the developing world better than it does those of highly developed northern nations. Current commercial CSP technology operates best at the high levels of irradiance found in the equatorial and desert regions. Also, CSP can only be done economically on a large scale, so vast stretches of flat, unshaded land are needed. CSP can integrate energy storage, as stated earlier, or it can easily be integrated into a hybrid steam plant that uses fossil fuels as well. This option makes it attractive in many middle eastern countries where oil and natural gas are plentiful. And with the World Banks recent announcement of the launch of the “Scaling Solar” program, we can expect to see CSP plants continue to flourish across the developing nations of the Sun Belt.

Will we ever see a resurgence in the solar thermal business, either large scale or residential in the US, or will PV continue to dominate while solar thermal languishes and eventually fades away? No one can say for sure, but if solar thermal is to make a comeback, it will require the right circumstances. PV prices will need to level out, and solar thermal will need to find it’s new niche. As for PV panel prices, the glut of cheap Chinese panels flooding into the US may be coming to an end in the near future, if the federal government decides to levy a tariff on the Chinese to prevent future dumping. Also, if grid access becomes more difficult, as many utility companies would like to make it, it may make solar thermal look more attractive.

Solar thermal is finding specialty uses in the industrial sector as well. The team of the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Facility at Valparaiso University, funded through a $2.3 million grant through the Department of Energy, is nearing its goal to create a commercially viable process of making magnesium using sunlight.

“The team has proven the feasibility of doing this in the laboratory, and now we are preparing to do this in the solar furnace,” said Scott Duncan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Valpo College of Engineering. Success could result in a cost-effective manufacturing process in the U.S. that is less harmful to the environment and less energy intensive. Today, most magnesium comes from China and is desirable in the transportation sector because it is 30% lighter than aluminum. In fact, any process that uses large amounts of heat, like kiln-drying lumber and dehydrating food could utilize solar thermal technology.

In the mean time, we can expect to see solar thermals market narrow in the US until the market shifts again.

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Solar Adds to Home Sale Value, New Report Shows https://solartribune.com/solar-home-value/ Fri, 23 Jan 2015 19:54:47 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8403 Over the last 10 years, there has been a great deal of debate over residential solar and its impact on the value of homes. Up until recently, information was incomplete and most information on the subject was anecdotal. A new study led by researchers at Lawrence Berkley labs finds that a solar installation does indeed […]

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Over the last 10 years, there has been a great deal of debate over residential solar and its impact on the value of homes. Up until recently, information was incomplete and most information on the subject was anecdotal. A new study led by researchers at Lawrence Berkley labs finds that a solar installation does indeed add significant value to homes.

Rooftop solar PV (photovoltaic) systems increased the sale of homes an average of $15,000, according to researchers led by Ben Hoen and Ryan Wiser of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley Laboratory’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. Berkley Labs worked on the report in cooperation with researchers from Adomatis Appraisal Services, Real Property Analytics/Texas A&M University, University of California at San Diego, San Diego State University, and Sandia National Laboratories.
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Their new study (entitled “Selling into the Sun: Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of Solar Homes”) found that home buyers are definitely willing to pay more for homes with a host-owned PV systems. Host-owned means that the system is owned by the property owner, not a third-party-owned or leased system. This study did not include information on third-party owned systems (but future research on the value of third-party-owned systems is planned for the future.) However, the study did cover eight states and various housing markets, PV markets and home types. The team analyzed nearly 22,000 sales of homes– almost 4,000 of which contained PV systems– in eight states from 1999 to 2013. This doubled the number of homes analyzed in previous studies and producing the most authoritative estimates to date of price premiums for U.S. homes with PV systems.

The researchers found that the “average premiums across the full sample equate to approximately $4/W or $15,000 for an average-sized 3.6-kW PV system. Only a small and non-statistically significant difference exists between PV premiums for new and existing homes, though some evidence exists of new home PV system discounting. A PV green cachet might exist, i.e., home buyers might pay a certain amount for any size of PV system and some increment more depending on system size. The market appears to depreciate the value of PV systems in their first 10 years at a rate exceeding the rate of PV efficiency losses and the rate of straight- line depreciation over the asset’s useful life. Net cost estimates—which account for government and utility PV incentives—may be the best proxy for market premiums, but income-based estimates may perform equally well if they accurately account for the complicated retail rate structures that exist in some states.”

“Previous studies on PV home premiums have been limited in size and scope,” says Ben Hoen, the lead author of the new report. “We more than doubled the number of PV home sales analyzed, examined a number of states outside of California, and captured the market during the recent housing boom, bust, and recovery.”

Interestingly, Forbes reported on an earlier 2011 report on the California real estate market Understanding the Solar Home Price Premium: Electricity Generation and ‘Green’ Social Status and found: “For the average installation, the authors found that solar panels added a $20,194 premium to the sales price of the house based on repeat sales data (houses were in the mid-$500,000 range). Solar is really expensive to install—the average total system cost is $35,967, but the effective price to homeowners with subsidies including the federal tax credit is $20,892. Thus, homeowners appear to recover approximately 97% of their investment costs – in addition to the savings associated with reduced energy bills.”

Reading the rather unimpressive report and the lukewarm response by Forbes only 4 years ago reflects the huge advances that the solar market is making as installed costs continue to drop. With more and homes featuring host-owned solar generation, the real estate industry is desperately in need of reliable methods to value the rapidly growing number of solar homes. The number of US homes with solar PV installations has grown to more than half a million, as of 2014.
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“As PV systems become more and more common on U.S. homes, it will be increasingly important to value them accurately, using a variety of methods,” says co-author Sandra Adomatis, an appraiser who helped develop the Appraisal Institute’s Green Addendum and who has written and spoken extensively on valuing green features. She noted, “Our findings should provide greater confidence that PV adds a quantifiable premium to a wide variety of homes in California and beyond.”

The research was supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, DOE supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.

Readers who would like to read more about the research and the findings can download the full 2015 report, “Selling into the Sun: Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of PV Homes”, as well as a fact sheets, and a summary slide deck here.

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Turbulence in the Energy Market: What Does it Mean for Solar? https://solartribune.com/turbulence-in-the-energy-market-what-does-it-mean-for-solar/ Thu, 01 Jan 2015 00:56:24 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8312 As we usher in 2015, we see a great deal of volatility in the energy sector, both domestically and internationally, both in the fossil fuel market and the renewable energy industry. An interconnected web of economics, politics and technology, it is hard to know what might be over the horizon. One thing is for sure, […]

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As we usher in 2015, we see a great deal of volatility in the energy sector, both domestically and internationally, both in the fossil fuel market and the renewable energy industry. An interconnected web of economics, politics and technology, it is hard to know what might be over the horizon. One thing is for sure, though– we are in a state of flux, and headed for more change. To paraphrase the great Bette Davis in the classic 1950 film “All About Eve,” “Fasten your seat belts…it’s going to be a bumpy year!”

Low U.S. Oil and Gas Prices Pull Solar Stocks Lower

If you live in the USA, you would have to be living under a rock to not notice the plummeting gas prices. In an article earlier this fall, I discussed why solar stock prices are being wrongly tied to the liquid fuels market, and why they should be decoupled. Plans for large solar thermal generation projects are being shelved because of low photovoltaic (PV) panel prices. The price of natural gas is approaching a two-year low. Internationally, wind-power development continues to be strong, while stalling in the US. The only stable market seems to be coal, which is rarely affected by anything.

What are some of the root causes of the turmoil, and what does it all mean for those of us in the solar industry? Let’s take a look at how we got here and where we might be going.

To begin with, the slowdown in the global economy is causing less demand worldwide. This is very bad for Russia’s economy, but here in the US it certainly is making consumers happy. The other reason that US pump prices are so low, is that US production has doubled recently, due in part with new shale oil drilling and fracking technology.

image: economist.com

image: economist.com


As far as natural gas, the warm winter is putting downward pressure on the market with decreased demand for heating. Lower gas prices may mean cheaper peak electricity prices, and that may create less demand for solar in 2015. Particularly hard hit may be the utility-scale solar installations and community solar gardens that are popping up across the country. More relevant to the installation of distributed residential and business-scale generation will be the actions of the new congress and state legislatures, many of which slid farther into the conservative column in the last election.

Where is Solar Headed in 2015?

Some stock analysts are predicting a rally for solar stocks at the beginning of 2015, despite the drag that crude prices have been putting on solar in recent months. The market watching website Seeking Alpha recently ran an article entitled A January Comeback for Solar Stocks that makes a lot of great points. Recent indicators may be showing that solar stocks are finally decoupling from the liquid fuels price crash, and a bounce may be in cards for the new year. The optimistic writer goes as far as to say that “tax-loss related selling is a more likely culprit than plunging oil prices for solar’s losses,” which may very well be the case.

image: seekingalpha.com

image: seekingalpha.com


However, another big factor in the outlook for solar is not related to oil or gas prices in the United states at all, but rather what is happening in China. First, the Chinese economy in general seems to be losing a little steam. Second, the US government is raising tariffs on Chinese made solar panels. This action comes after Chinese manufacturers have driven several US manufacturers out of the market by dumping solar panels onto the U.S. market, in some cases below the cost of production. It is hard to imagine that these tariffs will not raise panel prices in the US, but China has managed to get around tariff rules in the past. According to the New York Times; “The main beneficiary of the ruling is likely to be Malaysia, a Southeast Asian nation that is already the second-largest exporter of solar panels to the United States, after China and narrowly ahead of Taiwan. Western, Japanese and Korean companies are pouring investment into extensive operations there, seeing it as a stable country with a fairly low cost yet highly skilled labor force, and without China’s persistent trade frictions with the West.”

The Solar industry has been divided on the Chinese tariff. Fledgeling American solar manufacturers have been fighting for their lives in the wake of the flood of cheap Chinese equipment. For those that have survived, it is questionable as to whether or not they can still recover. The tariff may have a positive effect on stock prices of U.S. manufacturers initially, but if equipment costs go up, it’s going to hurt the installers, and slow the market. If state governments and utility companies continue to cut subsidies and rebates or implement user’s fees for grid access, 2015 could get very rough for American solar installation companies.

Still, the Solar Energy Industry Association points out the big gains in 2014, and predicts another record year for 2015. “The U.S. installed 1,354 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the third quarter of 2014 to total 16.1 gigawatts (GW) installed PV capacity, with another 1.4 GW of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity, enough to power 3.5 million homes. This quarter was the second largest quarter in history for solar growth, and SEIA and GTM Research predict another record-breaking year for 2014, with total installed capacity reaching three times the size of the market just three years ago.”

Global Outlook

While the US Solar industry seems mired in uncertainty, solar continues to move ahead in many other parts of the world. “Global PV end-market demand continues to set new records, restoring investor confidence in the PV industry after several years of overcapacity and declining profits,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at Solarbuzz. “Having been put on hold over the past six months, due mainly to trade-related uncertainties, record quarterly and annual shipment levels will prove crucial to investors that have been hesitant to commit to new capacity funds.”

Despite the fact that US utilities are preferring to cash in on the availability of cheap Chinese PV, Solar thermal generation is going full-bore in equatorial regions like Chile, South Africa and Morocco. Just this month, Germany announced that it will be loaning $796 million to Morocco for solar thermal development. There are even plans to link the Moroccan plants to Europe’s power grid.

Despite stumbling a bit at the end of 2014, there is still plenty to be optimistic about for the Solar Industry in coming years. The market seems to be approaching a global tipping point, where despite the manipulations of governments and energy companies and banks, Solar energy generation is truly here to stay.

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The War Over Rooftop Solar https://solartribune.com/the-war-over-rooftop-solar/ Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:48:13 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8289 Is Distributed Generation dead? Perhaps not, but some utility companies are trying hard to redefine DG and privately owned residential solar is not part of their plan. In 2014, distributed local solar power constituted over 25% of new power plant capacity, but that growth won’t continue if powerful utility lobbyists have their way. Since the […]

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Is Distributed Generation dead? Perhaps not, but some utility companies are trying hard to redefine DG and privately owned residential solar is not part of their plan. In 2014, distributed local solar power constituted over 25% of new power plant capacity, but that growth won’t continue if powerful utility lobbyists have their way.

Since the invention of the modern grid-tied inverter, U.S. advocates for solar have battled for the right to generate power with small-scale solar arrays. American homeowners and businesses wanting to install solar have had to deal with as many different policies as there are states in the union, some much more favorable to rooftop solar than others. States like Massachusetts and Maryland offer tax credits or other incentives, while states like Oklahoma and Arkansas are openly hostile toward solar development. Monopoly electrical utilities can pile fees and charges on owners of private solar generation that prevent projects from being economically feasible, and blocking all but committed (and wealthy) environmentalists from using solar.

  photo credit: NREL

photo credit: NREL


According to the Solar Energy Industry Association’s website, “Distributed generation (DG) refers to electricity that is produced at or near the point where it is used. Distributed solar energy can be located on rooftops or ground-mounted, and is typically connected to the local utility distribution grid. States, cities and towns are experimenting with policies to encourage distributed solar to offset peak electricity demand and stabilize the local grid.”

However, there is a good deal of disagreement about exactly what constitutes “distributed generation”, when to comes to solar photovoltaics (PV). In 1997, the federal government established the “Million Solar Roofs Initiative” (MSR). The goal of the MSR was to transform markets for distributed solar technologies by facilitating the installation of PV systems. Although the effectiveness of this program is debatable, it did illustrate the push to open up access to the grid to individuals who wished to install a grid-tied solar array, and it gave support to the small systems approach to Distributed Generation. Meanwhile, the rapid growth of solar photovoltaic installations in the US and the equally rapid decline in installed cost of solar has made solar more attractive to utility companies, who are now more interested in building their own “distributed” solar generation facilities than allowing their customers to install their own PV generation. Utilities are building large, multi megawatt solar plants in the same way they have developed small gas generating stations in the past. Utilities prefer a model where generation is distributed, but ownership is not.

In 2013, Arizona regulators voted 3-2 to set a fixed charge of 70 cents per kilowatt of system capacity on solar producers, to recoup their own capital costs. That’s roughly $5 a month for an average system that Arizona electric companies can now charge the people who are offsetting the utilities peak demand and covering their own maintenance costs. In April of 2014, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin followed suit and signed the “solar surcharge” bill into law, permitting utilities to charge an extra fee to any customer using distributed power generation, such as rooftop solar.
state-limits-on-local-power.002
Net metering, the policy which allows small systems owners to use their solar energy to receive credit for the energy they produce at retail cost, is capped at a percentage of total generation in over half the states in the U.S. With small systems going in faster than ever, potential solar generators in many states will begin to come up against net metering caps, virtually freezing out new residential and business installations. These caps are so low in most states, that they make no practical sense at all. With solar at 1% of peak demand, the intermittent nature of solar poses no danger to grid stability. In fact, solar generation matches peak demand. Hot, sunny days when demand is greatest, solar is producing at its peak.

Why the hostility toward small systems? Up until recently, utility companies have seen rooftop solar as a novelty. Now, with the solar boom, the marginal threat of small solar is growing rapidly. They let the camel’s nose under the tent flap, and now the camel wants in. At the same time, the current low installed cost of solar is giving utilities solar ambitions of their own.

Utilities prefer to keep their eggs in as few baskets as possible. Losing control of their generating capacity is not something they want to do, because in their model, they make power and send it to customers on a one way street. They are far from ready to give up the early 20th century transmission model. Their solution? Solar farms.

Topaz  Image: First Solar

Topaz Image: First Solar


In November, Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Solar flipped the switch on Topaz, the world’s largest solar farm, weighing in at a whopping 550 Megawatts, and located near San Luis Obispo County on California’s Carrizo Plain. Buffet’s company will top its own record next year, bringing the 579 Megawatt Solar Star online, also in California.

Just this month, First Solar, the same developer who built the Topaz plant, announced their entry into the “Residential” solar market. However, they are not going into the rooftop solar business. Instead, they are partnering with Clean Energy Collective to build “community” solar farms. This unique approach allows those who live in locations that are impractical for rooftop solar to buy into a larger solar farm.

image: Clean Energy Collective

image: Clean Energy Collective


“Distributed generation in the form of community solar expands the addressable market dramatically beyond the traditional residential or commercial sectors,” said Jim Hughes, First Solar’s CEO. “This innovative and cost-competitive approach will further establish solar, and specifically community solar, as a critical part of the global energy mix for all markets.”

The community solar approach is a huge step forward in allowing consumers access to solar technology, and it’s definitely a trend to watch. Large solar farms put huge amounts of clean energy onto the grid in a short amount of time. So why are lobbyist for companies like Buffet’s trying to shut out rooftop solar? Is it really a threat to their business model? After all, the more distributed the generation, the more resilient the grid. Also, with energy storage solutions on the horizon, residential customers may not need to beg for grid access much longer. At some time in the not-so-distant future, they may have the choice to cancel their electrical service and go completely off-grid.

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A New Direction For Solar: West Facing Panels https://solartribune.com/a-new-direction-for-solar/ Thu, 04 Dec 2014 01:22:37 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8249 Since the advent of modern solar technology, common wisdom has always taught us that solar panels should face the equator. For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, that means south. Now, with falling panel prices, the South-facing paradigm may be falling by the wayside. As we know, the suns relative position to any given […]

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Since the advent of modern solar technology, common wisdom has always taught us that solar panels should face the equator. For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, that means south. Now, with falling panel prices, the South-facing paradigm may be falling by the wayside.

solar panel orientation

Photo Credit: NREL.gov

As we know, the suns relative position to any given location on earth changes not only throughout the day, but throughout the year. It rises in the East and sets in the West each day, while it rises higher in the sky during the summer and lower in the winter. The seasonal change is less drastic the closer you are to the equator. Solar collectors, be they Photovoltaic (PV) electrical generating panels or solar thermal collectors which create heat, perform best when they are perpendicular to the sun’s rays. For this reason, solar installations have traditionally been designed with a tilt toward the equator, relative to the latitude.

In the world of PV solar, high PV panel prices have always required optimum system performance for maximum economic benefit. In many cases, this meant seasonally adjusting the tilt of panels or using “trackers” to automatically adjust the tilt of the array though the day. For fixed arrays, like roof mounted systems, South has always been the required direction. Now, as panel prices are falling, we are seeing many more panels being mounted on roofs facing east and west. So what gives?

photo: http://jb-electrical.co.uk

photo: http://jb-electrical.co.uk

The paradigm-buster in this case is more economic than technical. Your PV panel may lose a degree of performance by not facing south, but the value of the power during a given time of day may make other orientations more financially attractive. For instance, panels facing West will be exposed to less sun during the day than panels facing south, and will therefor make less power. But the power production by the west-facing panels reaches its peak in the late afternoon, at the same time that demand for utility power peaks. As people come home from work and school, air conditioning goes on, along with TVs, washing machines and other appliances. Utility companies rely on more expensive natural gas “peaking” plants to generate power during these times, and so the power produced costs more. That means that late afternoon solar generation is worth more, too.

According to a report from the Texas-based research firm Pecan Street: “residential solar systems, and particularly west-facing rooftop systems, may also act as a fairly impactful peak demand reduction device for utilities struggling to meet afternoon demand in hot summer months.”

Key findings from the report included:

    Counting only the electricity generated by a rooftop solar system that is actually used in the home (and therefore not counting electricity that was sent to the grid because it could not be used in the home), homes averaged a 58 percent peak demand reduction for electricity from the grid.

    South-facing solar systems cut peak demand from the grid by 54%, while west-facing systems reduced their homes’ peak demand from the grid by 65%.

    During peak hours, homes used 80% of the power generated from the rooftop systems and returned 20% to the grid. In the homes with south-facing systems, 78% of the power generated was used in the home; 22% was returned to the grid. 

    In homes with west-facing systems, 84% was used in the home; 16% was returned to the grid.
    Over the course of the full day, 64% of the energy generated by the rooftop systems was consumed on-site; 36% was returned to the grid.

    Over the course of the full day, and not including surplus energy returned to the grid, the solar systems provided 36% of the average power used per home. Nearly a third (32%) of the power was generated during peak demand hours.

In the wake of findings like those of Pecan Street, The California Energy Administration has announced a new $500 incentive for new, West-facing solar arrays.

“We are hoping to squeeze more energy out of the afternoon daylight hours when electricity demand is highest,” said David Hochschild, lead commissioner for the agency’s renewable energy division, which will be administering the program. “By encouraging west-facing solar systems, we can better match our renewable supply with energy demand.”

In Europe, where solar installations far outpace those in the United States, the South-facing paradigm is rapidly becoming a problem for utilities. According the The Telegraph: “… Professor Ralph Gottshalg of Loughborough University…said Germany has too many solar panels which means that its grid is disrupted on sunny summer lunchtimes with a flood of solar power so cheap it has to be almost given away. He is urging to the UK to follow Germany’s recent policy of putting panels on east-west facing roofs to smooth the supply of power during the day and prevent spikes of power at midday.”

So, what about East? According to Professor Gottshalg, there should be more solar going in on East roofs as well. This is true, from the perspective of solar as an offset for a users overall demand for grid power. However, in most areas, the power generated in the morning will be worth less money than that generated in the afternoon. However, in some areas, morning usage might be higher, for instance in colder rural areas in the North. Also, shading can be an issue at individual locations, and a wide open Eastern solar window may be a more viable option than a partially shaded southern or western exposure.

So what about trackers? Don’t they still offer the most power throughout the day? Stated simply, yes. However, tracking system technology has not fallen in price as quickly as panel prices. In most cases, it is now cheaper to buy more panels and use them less efficiently than it is to use tracking technology to maximize panel output. The one glaring exception to this discussion is, of course, off grid-applications. When storing electricity on-site in a battery bank, utility time-of-day pricing does not apply. For everyone else, it looks like solar system designs may be looking to a new direction.

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Solar Values = American Values https://solartribune.com/solar-values-american-values/ Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:49:49 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8228 “By the way, if you want to have a war over oil, leave me out of it- because I don’t think we need it. All I have to say is, go solar! Go wind! Let a little freedom into your life, and help your neighbors stay free, too.” Richard Perez, Publisher, Home Power Magazine- keynote […]

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“By the way, if you want to have a war over oil, leave me out of it- because I don’t think we need it. All I have to say is, go solar! Go wind! Let a little freedom into your life, and help your neighbors stay free, too.”

Richard Perez, Publisher, Home Power Magazine- keynote address, I-Renew Energy Expo, Sept.8, 2001

Home Power #1: 1987

Home Power #1: 1987

Just three days before the terrorist attacks that rocked the nation, Richard Perez, the publisher of the independent renewable energy publication Home Power addressed a packed audience at one of the nations oldest gatherings of wind and solar power enthusiasts. He inspired the audience with a talk about the importance of freedom. Freedom to make one’s own choices, and accepting the responsibilities that come with that freedom.

It has been more than 13 years since Perez gave that speech and the solar landscape has changed immensely. Solar is no longer primarily the purview of off-grid survivalists and back-to-the-land hippies. The installed price of solar has dropped from above $10 per watt to under $4. More states around the nation are encouraging solar development, and the economic benefits of solar are becoming more obvious by the day. And yet, there remains a strong anti-solar contingent in the United States. But why? In post-911 America, isn’t freedom still an American value?

Home Power: Today

Home Power: Today

Many will point out the obvious political divide between liberals and conservatives, or Democrats and Republicans, but on closer examination, this separation is relatively superficial in the debate over solar values. Despite the perception that using solar energy to generate power is a “left-coast liberal” idea, using renewable energy sources like wind and solar has long been favored by many extremely conservative individuals. The motivations for using solar may be different for liberals and conservatives, but historically, there has been plenty of interest on both ends of the political spectrum.

Unfortunately for energy consumers (and that includes just about everyone in America) solar has become a strawman for both of Americas big political parties. Before the advent of major debate over climate change in congress, the debate centered simply around how new technologies would mature in this country. “Mandates” or the “free market?” This was the crux of the argument as we entered the 21st century. Now, anti-climate legislation activists paint solar as part of a scheme to raise taxes, while pro-climate legislation activists paint opponents of solar as “anti-science” or the “tools of the oil industry.” In most cases, both parties are arguing points that are peripheral to the central issue: the inevitable move away from the 19th century central station generation model toward a more distributed generation model.

Contrary to popular belief, all large energy companies are not opposed to renewable energy. Both BP and Shell Oil have dipped their toes in the solar market, and Shell executives have been quoted as saying that solar may grow to be the planets biggest power source by mid-century. Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy boasts a generation portfolio that is 30% wind power and growing. Energy companies understand that renewable energy, and solar in particular are coming on strong. However, they want to be in control of the transition. MidAmerican energy fought to keep any and all farmer-owned wind projects off of their grid until economics were right for MidAm to build its own wind farms. Other large utilities see the writing on the wall, with the rapid decline in cost of solar. Some embrace it, others fight it, and because of their powerful political lobbyists, politicians reflect those concerns.

However, more and more political conservatives are recognizing that distributed electrical generation through solar and wind is ultimately the most consistent with their own core conservative values. The central station model and national transmission grid grew from the federal social programs of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” That infrastructure is aging, and so is the technology. The market needs to be opened up, and individuals deserve the right to make their own energy choices.

Debbie Dooley, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, said that she supports solar development as “a free market issue that gives consumers more choice.”

Although Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has sided with utilities to kill solar development in his state, his neighbor to the South, Governor Terry Branstad (R) of Iowa, has signed an extension of a wildly successful solar tax credit program in his state. Utility company lobbyists are having an increasingly difficult time keeping the lid on solar’s success in the market, and Conservatives are realizing that solar is a “free market” success story, whether they like it or not. It’s hard to argue with the conservative credentials of these solar supporters. Even Barry Goldwater Jr., son of the Conservative icon and former Republican Arizona legislator has been a vocal supporter of solar development.

Debbie Dooley  Photo: midwesternenergy.com

Debbie Dooley Photo: midwesternenergy.com

Gov. Terry Branstad  photo:qctimes.com

Gov. Terry Branstad photo:qctimes.com

Among Democrats, the majority support renewable energy development, because of their core value of protecting the environment. BUT… the devil is in the details. Once again, political special interest groups play a major role in how Democratic legislators view the implementation of solar. Unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have traditionally opposed distributed generation, and clung to the central station model because power plants have traditionally employed many IBEW members. Because of their traditional ties to unions, many Democrats prefer to see solar deployed and owned by–wait for it–the large utility companies. One egregious example is in Oklahoma, where a bill to fine individuals who use solar passed 29 Democrats in the state House and 12 Democrats in the state Senate.

As we can see, when focusing on core values, there is a great deal of room for agreement over the value of solar development. Freedom to choose our energy source, freedom to advance new and better technologies, freedom from foreign entanglements over energy and freedom from pollution; It would be hard to find an American who doesn’t share those values. Solar values ARE American values. It’s when special interests get involved that the waters get muddied, and progress stops. And let’s face it… inertia in the marketplace is good ONLY for the old and established businesses. If the US hopes to compete in the global marketplace of the 21st century, it is time to open up the energy market to new technologies. After all, if survivalists and hippies can agree that solar is a good idea, why can’t Republicans and Democrats?

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U.S. solar market grows over 40% in 2013 https://solartribune.com/u-s-solar-market-grows-over-40-in-2013-2014-03-06/ Thu, 06 Mar 2014 09:30:18 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=7542 In a new record for annual solar growth in the U.S., solar PV installations rose 41 percent from 2012 to reach 4,751 MW in 2013. The news comes from Solar Market Insight Year in Review 2013, a report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The additional installations brought the total PV […]

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In a new record for annual solar growth in the U.S., solar PV installations rose 41 percent from 2012 to reach 4,751 MW in 2013.

The news comes from Solar Market Insight Year in Review 2013, a report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The additional installations brought the total PV capacity to over 12,000 MW, made up of over 440,000 solar electric systems.

Plus, an added 410 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) systems became operational last year, almost doubling the total installed capacity of CSP, now at 918 MW.

Credit: GTM Research and SEIA

Credit: GTM Research and SEIA

According to the researchers, solar is now hitting the mainstream: second only to natural gas, solar was the second-largest source of electricity generating capacity installed in the U.S. last year – and the cost of installing solar fell by 15 percent throughout the year.

“2013 offered the U.S. solar market the first real glimpse of its path toward mainstream status,” said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “The combination of rapid customer adoption, grassroots support for solar, improved financing terms, and public market successes displayed clear gains for solar in the eyes of both the general population and the investment community.”

“Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America, generating enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to power more than 2.2 million homes – and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of our industry’s enormous potential,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch.

“Last year alone, solar created tens of thousands of new American jobs and pumped tens of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy.  In fact, more solar has been installed in the U.S. in the last 18 months than in the 30 years prior.  That’s a remarkable record of achievement.”

Almost half – 44 percent – of last year’s new solar capacity was installed in the fourth quarter, making Q4 2013 by far the largest quarter in the history of the U.S. market.

Looking ahead, GTM Research and SEIA predict 26% growth in the U.S. solar market next year, bringing annual installations up to nearly 6 GW and a cumulative total just below 20 GW.

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Report: Q3 2013 a record for home solar in the U.S. https://solartribune.com/report-q3-2013-a-record-for-home-solar-in-the-u-s-2013-12-11/ Wed, 11 Dec 2013 10:53:52 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6952 The third quarter of 2013 saw the second-highest installed PV capacity in U.S. history, with 930 MW installed in Q3 2013, according to a new report. The latest  U.S. Solar Market Insight™ report, from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, also predicts that in 2013 the U.S. will install more PV capacity […]

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The third quarter of 2013 saw the second-highest installed PV capacity in U.S. history, with 930 MW installed in Q3 2013, according to a new report.

The latest  U.S. Solar Market Insight™ report, from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, also predicts that in 2013 the U.S. will install more PV capacity than Germany (the world leader in solar) for the first time in over 15 years.

The 930 MW figure is a 20 percent jump on the last quarter, and 35 percent more than the same quarter in 2012.

The report also found that the home solar market had it’s biggest quarter ever, with 186 MW of installed capacity, though the utility segment still represents over 50 percent of new installed PV capacity.

All in all, the report forecasts a 27 percent year-on-year increase in annual PV installations, up to 4.3 GW in 2013. By year’s end, there will be over 400,000 installations in operation across the U.S., and potentially over 50 percent growth in residential solar installations year-on-year.

Credit:  U.S. Solar Market Insight Q3 2013

Credit: U.S. Solar Market Insight Q3 2013

“Without a doubt, 2013 will go down as a record-shattering year for the U.S. solar industry,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO.  “We’ve now joined Germany, China and Japan as worldwide leaders when it comes to the installation of new solar capacity.”

“When it comes to preparing for America’s future, clean, dependable and affordable solar energy has become the ‘Little Engine That Could,’ defying expectations and powering economic growth – and, frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our industry’s enormous potential,” he continued.

However, the non-residential market has had a difficult year, thanks, in part, to challenges to net metering and other legislation in key states. But SEIA and GTM Research predict a rebound in 2014.

“Solar is the second-largest source of new electricity capacity in the U.S. this year, trailing only natural gas,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM. “As solar continues its march toward ubiquity, the market will require continued innovation, efficiency improvement and regulatory clarity. But already the groundwork has been laid for a mainstream solar future.”

Other highlights include:

  • almost 31,000 individual home installations completed in Q3 2013, bringing the cumulative total in the U.S. to 360,000.

  • 52 utility PV projects completed in Q3 2013, with a total capacity of 539 MW

  • compared to Q2 2013, the national average system price fell 4.2%, from $3.13/W to $3.00/W, representing a 16.4% decline from $3.59/W in Q3 2012.

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Japan to see massive rise in solar for 2013 https://solartribune.com/japan-to-see-massive-rise-in-solar-for-2013-2013-06-13/ Thu, 13 Jun 2013 09:11:35 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6608 According to data released by the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association, sales of solar cells in Japan jumped 342 percent to 1,734 MW in the first quarter of 2013. Less than a year ago, Japan introduced a feed-in tariff program which stipulates that utilities must buy renewable energy at prices fixed for 20 years. The program, […]

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According to data released by the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association, sales of solar cells in Japan jumped 342 percent to 1,734 MW in the first quarter of 2013.

Less than a year ago, Japan introduced a feed-in tariff program which stipulates that utilities must buy renewable energy at prices fixed for 20 years. The program, which began in July 2012, is credited for the huge jump in solar energy use this year.

Most (94 percent) of the renewable projects approved since the tariff was introduced have been solar; sellers of solar power receive the most benefit under the system. The tariff rate is over double the rate provided in Germany and China, the world’s leaders in solar.

Credit: Bloomberg

Credit: Bloomberg

The feed-in tariff was one of the last legislations from former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, reflecting the nation’s skepticism toward nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

According to IHS research, Japan is set to install $20 billion worth of solar installations this year, up from $11 billion in 2012. That’s an 82 percent annual growth rate, impressive when compared to the global predicted increase of just four percent.

However, part of the reason Japan’s installations will be so high in revenue terms is because solar installations are more expensive in that country.

Japan had a total solar capacity of 7.4 GW in 2012, and that figure is set to double this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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Report: PV capacity to reach 5.3 GW in 2013 https://solartribune.com/report-pv-capacity-to-reach-5-3-gw-in-2013-2013-06-12/ Wed, 12 Jun 2013 09:11:24 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6603 Over 48 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in the first quarter of 2013 came from solar. That’s according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which finds that 723 MW of solar capacity was installed in Q1 2013. That’s 33 percent […]

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Over 48 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in the first quarter of 2013 came from solar.

That’s according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which finds that 723 MW of solar capacity was installed in Q1 2013. That’s 33 percent more than the same period in 2012.

This figure represents the best first quarter performance for the solar industry to date. It’s also a record capacity for the residential and utility segments, with 164 MW and 318 MW installed in Q1 respectively.

“We are on the cusp of a new solar revolution in the U.S., driven by the rapid expansion of distributed generation,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM.

Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight

Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight

“Installations will speed up over the next four years as projects become economically preferable to retail power in more locations. However, changes to net metering and electricity rate structures could serve as the market’s primary barrier to adoption.”

The report predicts 4.4 GW of of solar to be installed by the end of 2013, a figure which will grow to almost 9.2 GW by 2016. Adding concentrating solar into the mix will see the U.S. add 5.3 GW of photovoltaic solar this year, enough to power over 960,000 homes.

The residential segment grew the most, up 53 percent from the same period last year, and third-party systems (through power purchasing agreements or solar leasing) continue to expand in some regions. In California and Arizona, third-party solar systems accounted for 67 percent and 86 percent respectively of all residential PV installed in Q1 2013.

“The U.S. now has more than 8,500 MW of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, enough to power more than 1.3 million American households,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA.

“This sustained growth is enabling the solar industry to create thousands of good American jobs and to provide clean, affordable energy for more families, businesses, utilities, and the military than ever before.”

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U.S. solar PV demand to increase to 4.3 GW in 2013 https://solartribune.com/u-s-solar-pv-demand-to-increase-to-4-3-gw-in-2013-2013-06-05/ Wed, 05 Jun 2013 09:01:47 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6579 A new report from NPD Solarbuzz finds that demand for solar PV will grow by 20 percent in the U.S. this year. That will bring total demand for 2013 to 4.3 GW, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly report. The research firm forecasts that demand in the second quarter of […]

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A new report from NPD Solarbuzz finds that demand for solar PV will grow by 20 percent in the U.S. this year.

That will bring total demand for 2013 to 4.3 GW, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly report.

The research firm forecasts that demand in the second quarter of 2013 will reach 1 GW; almost three-quarters of that will come from California, Arizona, New Jersey, and North Carolina, and 68 percent will be from utility-scale ground-mounted installations.

Residential and small commercial rooftop solar energy systems will make up 18% of demand in Q2, with another 14% from large commercial installations.

Credit: NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly

Credit: NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly

“The strong commercial and utility-based solar PV being deployed in the US is stimulated by state specific mandates that require solar to meet target levels, or carve-outs, of total energy production,” says Chris Sunsong, analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.

“Meanwhile, residential demand is being driven by new third-party ownership models that allow homeowners and businesses to install PV systems with minimal upfront commitments,” he continued.

But despite the positive outlook for this year, the report warns that this growth is reliant on strong demand from only a few states. In fact, over 85 percent of all demand for 2013 will come from just nine states, leaving the national market “highly vulnerable to any abrupt policy changes in the leading US PV states.”

“The success of federal incentives and aggressive renewable portfolio standards that were intended to stimulate domestic solar PV installations in the US is now coming under increased scrutiny at the state level”, added Sunsong.

The report also cites large utility-based projects in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas as contributing to strong demand in the second half of 2013.

Overall, demand for solar PV is set to exceed 5 GW in 2014, growing at a compounded annual rate of 70 percent since 2009.

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8,000 solar jobs posted in Q1 2013 https://solartribune.com/8000-solar-jobs-posted-in-q1-2013-2013-05-21/ Tue, 21 May 2013 09:00:40 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6506 New data from the Clean Jobs Index shows that in the first three months of 2013, almost 750,000 “clean jobs” were posted across the U.S. The Index, compiled by the Ecotech Institute, found that over 8,000 of these jobs were in the solar industry. The job postings included positions for solar sales representatives, installers and […]

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New data from the Clean Jobs Index shows that in the first three months of 2013, almost 750,000 “clean jobs” were posted across the U.S.

The Index, compiled by the Ecotech Institute, found that over 8,000 of these jobs were in the solar industry. The job postings included positions for solar sales representatives, installers and project managers.

“The Clean Jobs Index shows that there is tremendous job growth in the cleantech sector and signs of positive momentum on the state level for environmental factors that can affect us all,” said Kyle Crider, Ecotech Institute’s Program Chair and Manager of Environmental Operations.

The Clean Jobs Index also provides data on other aspects of cleantech across all 50 states, including alternative fueling stations, LEED projects, total energy consumption, energy efficiency, green pricing, net metering and state incentives.

Credit: Solar Jobs Index

Credit: Clean Jobs Index

“When we see increases in LEED certification, we know businesses are making sustainable decisions; when we see an increase in alternative fueling stations, we know people are driving demand for greener forms of transportation,” Crider continued. “These are powerful indicators.”

According to the Index, 749,197 clean jobs were posted in the first quarter of 2013, and Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Vermont and West Virginia showed the fastest quarter-on-quarter growth for clean job postings.

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Report: Global PV demand falls in Q1 2013 thanks to Chinese volatility https://solartribune.com/report-global-pv-demand-falls-in-q1-2013-thanks-to-chinese-volatility-2013-04-10/ Wed, 10 Apr 2013 09:05:34 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=5968 According to NPD Solarbuzz, global demand for solar PV in the first quarter of 2013 will be just 6.2 GW, down 23% from the previous quarter. The research firm credits the decline installation to volatility in China, noting both seasonality and policy incentive deadlines. As a result, demand in China comes in waves, while other […]

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According to NPD Solarbuzz, global demand for solar PV in the first quarter of 2013 will be just 6.2 GW, down 23% from the previous quarter.

The research firm credits the decline installation to volatility in China, noting both seasonality and policy incentive deadlines. As a result, demand in China comes in waves, while other markets around the world are more stable.

According to the Solarbuzz Quarterly report, China will nevertheless account for over 20 percent of worldwide PV demand this year, with estimated installations between 0.9 and 3.6 GW.

“Chinese solar PV demand was the key global driver at the end of 2012, which helped to deplete upstream inventory levels that had accumulated over previous quarters,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.

Credit: NPD Solarbuzz Quarterly report, March 2013

Credit: NPD Solarbuzz Quarterly report, March 2013

“However, extreme swings in PV demand from China over the next year will make capacity utilization and inventory control particularly challenging,” said Barker. “At the same time, demand from other global PV markets is beginning to offer predictable quarterly demand levels that are essential for long-term planning.”

Germany, Italy, France and the UK will together account for around 65% of demand for solar in Europe, with an expected 2.7 to 3.2 GW of solar installed over each of the next four quarters.

Demand from the rest of the world, primarily the U.S., Japan, Middle East and Southeast Asia, will range from 2.5 to 3.6 GW each quarter.

“Volatile demand swings will continue to hamper the growth of the solar PV industry over the next four quarters, with production and shipment schedules having to be adjusted each quarter,” said Barker.

“These effects will have the most profound impact on suppliers that rely upon China as the dominant end-market for shipments. Suppliers that are focused on Europe, Japan, and the US will see more stable quarterly demand trends, and will be able to plan production schedules with far greater visibility.”

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Bloomberg: China set to lead global PV growth for 2013 https://solartribune.com/bloomberg-china-set-to-lead-global-pv-growth-for-2013-2013-03-11/ Mon, 11 Mar 2013 08:57:12 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=5615 According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the global solar industry is set to bounce back in 2013, after a difficult 2012. BNEF surveyed seven industry analysts, who forecast that new solar capacity will increase by 14 percent in 2013, up to 34.1 GW – that’s much more positive that the only 4.4 percent growth […]

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According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the global solar industry is set to bounce back in 2013, after a difficult 2012.

BNEF surveyed seven industry analysts, who forecast that new solar capacity will increase by 14 percent in 2013, up to 34.1 GW – that’s much more positive that the only 4.4 percent growth in 2012.

“Solar demand is proving very resilient and will keep growing this year even as European markets slump,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Zurich.

“A further increase in installations driven by record- low prices, however, won’t do much to help manufacturers’ margins.”

Major Chinese PV manufacturer Yingli Solar's 2MW installation in Salerno, Italy. Credit: Yingli Solar

BNEF predicts that China will jump ahead of Germany as the world’s largest solar market this year, thanks to massive support from the Chinese government.

Earlier this year, China more than doubled its annual solar capacity target for 2013 up to 10 GW, and plans to reach 35 GW of installed capacity by 2015.

The analysts also noted that Japan and the U.S. saw greater growth in PV in 2012 than most European markets, and predict that these countries will spur the industry’s expansion for 2013.

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France doubles PV target for 2013 https://solartribune.com/france-doubles-pv-target-for-2013-2013-01-28/ Mon, 28 Jan 2013 10:58:58 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=4981 France recently doubled its target capacity for PV power generation to 1,000 MW in 2013, and offered more financial assistance to PV power facilities that use European-made panels. The country’s Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Delphine Batho, said the measures are expected to reestablish the French solar sector and stimulate investments amounting to […]

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France recently doubled its target capacity for PV power generation to 1,000 MW in 2013, and offered more financial assistance to PV power facilities that use European-made panels.

The country’s Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Delphine Batho, said the measures are expected to reestablish the French solar sector and stimulate investments amounting to more than 2 billion Euros ($2.6 billion), while simultaneously cutting the industry trade deficit that has grown to 1.35 billion Euros ($1.8 billion).

French President Francois Hollande is looking to rescue a solar industry that lost 15,000 jobs in the last two years, after the previous government scaled back support for PV installations. In 2012, the solar industry had a total of 18,000 employees, down from 32,500 in 2010.

Photo Credit: CalFinder

“Many jobs were lost because of the (former) government’s yo-yo policies. But we will fight to develop the ecological competitiveness of France,” said Batho.

According to Jean-Louis Bal, head of the country’s main renewable energy sector lobby SER, the planned measures would help the industry survive in the short-term, but does not provide a long-term solution.

However, he added that this is the first positive message from the French government in over three years.

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