Posted on Tuesday January 3, 2017
What will the solar industry look like under the new administration? This is a question many in and out of the renewable industry are asking. The good news is that the solar industry has so much momentum that it doesn’t matter who is in public office over the next 4 years. The solar industry is here to stay and is an unstoppable force.
Not only is solar energy a smart energy source because of the environmental and public health benefits, but it is smart financially as well. Because of individual states’ actions and natural market forces, the solar industry is on track for steady growth in future years, regardless of what the national political landscape looks like.
2016: A year in Review
First, let’s take a look at what the solar industry looked like in 2016, in numbers:
After the most impressive year on record for solar energy, it is hard to imagine the industry slowing down anytime soon. And according to industry experts, it won’t, regardless of current or future national politics. Greentech Media and the Solar Energy Industries Association report that by 2021, it is expected that 30 states will have over 100 MW of solar energy installed and 20 of those states will have more than 1 GW, or 1,000 MW, of solar energy installed. Furthermore, over 54,000 MW of utility-scale solar is estimated to be installed in the coming years.
With an incoming presidential administration that is focused on bringing jobs back to the coal industry and doing away with the Clean Power Plan, it might seem perplexing that the solar industry would continue to thrive under such circumstances. So why is the solar market predicted to continue to grow over the next four years?
Natural market forces are one of the largest reasons for the major future growth of the industry. Development costs have fallen year over year for over a decade, making solar energy cost competitive with mainstream forms of energy for the first time in history. The renewable energy industry is thriving despite the fact that the Clean Power Plan has not been implemented. It’s not that the Clean Power Plan wouldn’t bring positive growth to the renewable energy sector, but it’s not necessary to its growth.
Small businesses and large corporations alike are advocating more and more for clean energy options. Walmart, Google, Amazon, and Apple are among companies who are turning to solar as a way to help their bottom line. (Google is proud to announce that it will be the first of the tech giants to reach 100% renewable energy by 2017.) In addition to Silicon Valley not surprisingly leading the way in solar energy demand, a less likely market segment is starting to demand the growing clean energy source as well: manufacturers. Companies like Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola are starting to realize the benefit solar energy has for their bottom lines. In his article about the U.S. private sector pushing the growth of renewable energy, Shayle Kann of Greentech Media notes that the private sector is choosing renewable energy options “out of its own self-interest”, and it is this self-interest that makes the trend of using renewable energy a long-term one.
Secondly, individual states have more power to influence the solar industry than the federal government. This is because each state has their own set of policies and regulations that dictate their unique energy industries, so depending on what those rules and regulations look like, solar as an industry may thrive or struggle. We are seeing more and more states enforcing their own ambitious renewable energy standards for utilities, and enacting laws that make it easier for consumers to access solar energy, like community solar programs. Local state policies encourage local growth in terms of job creation and economic stimulus, and these policies often gain bipartisan support because of that.
Furthermore, the Investment Tax Credit for solar deployment was extended at the federal level last year, and it is estimated that this federal-level policy decision will spur nearly 20 GW of additional solar power. Because of this estimated incredible growth, it is unlikely the federal government will choose to repeal the tax credit.
Where does community solar fit in?
Community Solar Hub knows first-hand the momentum building in the community solar sub-sector. With over 100 community solar arrays in 25 states, with over 100,000 kW of generation, we understand the tremendous potential our industry holds. Thousands of gigawatts are in the pipeline for community solar across the country. Exemplary state markets include New York, Minnesota, Colorado, and Massachusetts. The National Renewable Energy Lab predicts that community solar will represent 32-49% of distributed solar by 2020, on track to reach 15 GW.
Community solar is growing for a number of reasons; it is a cost-effective way to reach all electricity customers. It avoids constraints facing rooftop models while reaching near utility-scale economics. Commercial and industrial companies are increasingly approaching community solar as an efficient, cost-effective way of procuring renewables, accessing the grid, engaging employees, and demonstrating leadership in their communities, while residents who have traditionally been disenfranchised from the rooftop market are able to access solar energy for the first time. Community solar is quickly becoming an industry force to reckon with, helping to boost the solar industry as a whole.
Join the campaign to bring community solar to every neighborhood in the nation. Gain access to the tools that will make your projects a success. Share the details of your developments for others to see and repeat your achievements. Contribute to your community by providing the choice of clean and affordable electricity to everyone.