Solar Energy News: Virginia, Microsoft Launch Major Solar Project, Solar to Shatter Records in 2016, New Startup Brings PV Into Sharing Economy

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With spring right around the corner, the solar industry’s outlook is as bright as this stunning shot of the James River over Richmond’s skyline. A major solar project expected to boost Virginia’s economy, new shared solar panel technology and projections for solar to shatter last year’s records are the top headlines from this week’s Solar News Roundup.

Solar Startup Launches Technology to Benefit Landlords and Tenants

The sharing economy has expanded into the solar industry with Digital Solar, an Australia-based tech startup that created a platform to help landlords and tenants share the benefits of solar panels. With the company’s new Hana program, landlords and tenants can calculate and review estimated cost reductions, solar panel payback period and return on investment to determine how much each party can save by sharing a rooftop solar panel system instead of buying grid-tied electricity.

Virginia, Microsoft Launch Major Solar Project to Boost Economy

The Commonwealth of Virginia, its leading utility Dominion Power and tech giant Microsoft have announced a joint partnership to build a new solar facility that will generate 20 megawatts of photovoltaic energy. The project is expected to be completed by late 2017 and will generate enough solar energy to power 5,000 homes. “This is a prime example of the type of creative thinking and public-private cooperation we need to build a new Virginia economy,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the official partnership announcement on Wednesday.

Solar Expected to Shatter Records, Double Previous Installed Capacity

With strong momentum following the major ITC extension at the end of 2015, GTM Research is forecasting that solar will break virtually every prior record. According to their analysis, U.S. installed solar capacity is now expected to double in 2016. Furthermore, Deutsche Bank expects the financing cost of a solar panel system to drop dramatically, from 7.9 percent last year to 5.4 percent in 2016. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is predicting 900,000 new individual solar projects will be installed this year, collectively pushing U.S. operating PV capacity to 25.6 gigawatts.

Massachusetts State Lawmakers Work to Preserve Net Metering

A collection of 100 Massachusetts lawmakers are working urgently to get an important solar bill on the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker this week. The new proposal surrounds the state’s net-metering policy currently in place to compensate solar homeowners for the energy that they send back to the grid. Electric companies currently pay credits at the retail rate, but under this new legislation, the payment would downgrade to the wholesale rate. Dozens of Massachusetts mayors and town officials are pushing to maintain the existing retail rate net metering policy and feel it is a crucial incentive to continue the state’s impressive solar growth.

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