Renewable energy advocates celebrated across the globe this week as they witnessed the unveiling of the largest solar power array in the world. A new initiative by Environment America to protect solar from misinformation campaigns, a low-income program by L.A.’s biggest utility and the Kamuthi solar power plant in southern India are the key headlines we’re reading from this week’s Solar Energy News report.
India Launches World’s Largest PV Array
There have been many power plants worth marveling at in the age of solar energy – the Agua Caliente in Arizona and the Topaz and Desert Sunlight Farms in California were breathtaking when first released. That being said, it’s difficult to compare any utility scale solar panel array to the one that was unveiled in India this past week, boasting a world record 648 megawatts of solar power.
The PV gargantuan is located in southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu, and many are calling it the Kamuthi Solar Power Plant for its location. The solar array is the size of a town – it can supply enough energy for 150,000 homes and will make India the third largest solar market as soon as early 2017. The Kamuthi plant is made up of 2.5 million individual PV modules and required over $600 million in funding to construct. The plant has nearly 100 more MW of solar capacity than the prior world leader (Topaz, CA) and will be constantly cleaned and maintained by a fleet of robots that also run on solar power.
L.A. Unveils Solar Campaign for Low-Income Homeowners
California’s goal to generate 33 percent of all its electricity from renewables has been called audacious by some and will demand bold adaptation from its largest utilities. This week, the city of Los Angeles witnessed a victory for solar energy as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) approved a new solar campaign for low-income households. The program will install small rooftop PV systems and bring solar leasing to qualifying homeowners at a low fixed rate of $30 a month.
Though this launch is primarily a win for L.A. homeowners, it’s also a victory for the solar industry as a whole: the program marks the first instance of a U.S. utility installing home solar energy modules rather than just collecting from them through a common residential program like net metering. LADWP’s General Manager David Wright said in a statement that the new solar program will “offer participation in our solar programs to customers regardless of income level so they can save money on their electric bills while also being environmentally responsible.”
Environment America’s Next Campaign to Lobby for Solar Industry
One of the largest environmental non-profits in the United States turned its campaign efforts to the solar industry this past week. Environment America began the month of December by declaring its next big initiative: protecting solar from fossil fuel lobbying efforts. The environmental organization’s research and policy division also concurrently released a report that outlines various P.R. and misinformation campaigns currently being run by fossil fuel networks to hinder the growth of the PV industry. This new campaign effort will focus on bringing those misinformation efforts to light and blocking anti-solar legislation in vulnerable PV states across the U.S.
An example of Environment America’s call for support would be the recently rejected ballot initiative in Florida, where a misleading amendment funded by state utilities would have resulted in hiked rates for solar homeowners and restrictions on market growth. The “Stand Up for Solar” campaign will ultimately look to keep trade group Edison Electric Institute in check and prevent further policy measures designed solely to slow solar industry growth. “Americans who believe in the power of rooftop solar technology to help the environment and create jobs must watch these companies like hawks, and urge public officials to support policies that guarantee solar rights and access,” said David Pomerantz, Executive Director of the Energy and Policy Institute.
SolarCity to Hire 1,500 New Workers for Buffalo Plant
SolarCity held its first information sessions for potential employees this week as the country’s largest solar company gears up to begin operations at its Buffalo manufacturing plant. The installer behemoth plans to hire 1,500 new workers for the $900 million factory division in Buffalo, New York. According to a source from SolarCity’s human resources department, manufacturing jobs at the factory will start at $12.50 an hour. In response to inquiries about the Tesla merger, SolarCity has said that they will manage hiring independently of its new parent company. According to the New York State Department of Labor, SolarCity will begin posting job listings as soon as early December and plans to complete all factory hiring by spring of 2017.