Make your day (and your mind) a little brighter with EnergySage’s roundup of solar energy news for the week of September 7th, 2015.
U.S. Solar Capacity Hits 20 GW in Second Quarter of 2015
Solar capacity in the United States has hit another major milestone, and continues to grow at unprecedented rates. GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports in the Q2 2015 U.S. Solar Market Insight report that the U.S. surpassed 20 gigawatts (GW) of total operational solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity during the second quarter of 2015. For reference, this is approximately 16 times more electricity than the 1.21 gigawatts needed to power the flux capacitor in Back to the Future! According to the report, the U.S. reached 22.7 GW of total PV capacity in the first six months of 2015. The residential market alone grew to 473 MW, equivalent to 70 percent growth year-over-year. For comparison, electricity generated via natural gas only grew by 19 percent during the same time period.
Over the next year, solar capacity will see more rapid growth. New projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration expect that utility-scale solar capacity will increase by more than 100 percent between the end of 2014 and the end of 2016. The question of whether that pace continues through the end of the decade, however, depends on the renewal of the federal investment tax credit, which credits 30 percent of the cost of a solar panel system back to the system’s owner and is set to expire at the end of 2016.
First-Ever Utility-Scale Solar Energy Storage System to Be Built in Hawai’i
The Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) and SolarCity made history this week with a power purchase agreement for the first-ever utility-scale solar panel and battery storage system. The installation features a 52 megawatt-hour battery that will capture and supply up to 13 megawatts of solar electricity to the grid between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., when electricity demand is highest. KIUC will be paying slightly less than the current costs of conventional generation for a technology that enables them to deliver solar power at night. Hawai’i has set the most ambitious renewable portfolio standard in the United States, and aims to use 100% renewable energy by 2045.
Some State Net Metering Policies Harming Market for Solar
In many states, net metering policies allow owners of residential solar panels to sell back their excess electricity generation to the grid, making an additional return on their investment. According to EQ Research, 44 states have existing net metering policies, with some dangerously close to (or surpassing) the net metering cap. Once the cap is met, customers can no longer sell their excess power back to the grid. In addition, some states don’t have clear data on how close they are to reaching their net metering caps, with serious ramifications. In Nevada, at least one solar provider pulled out of the state, and the solar market shut down completely when the state reached its net metering cap months earlier than expected. Check out EQ Research’s new interactive net metering capacity map to see how close your state is to reaching its net metering cap.
Your Weekend Solar Reading
- Steven Cohen, Executive Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, reviews the ambitious proposed climate policies making their way through California’s legislature. The Takeaway: California has the potential to set the gold standard by enacting the leading climate program in the country… if the legislation can make it through the state legislature. Follow along in the coming weeks, as the California assembly gets closer to a vote.