With summer’s end just around the corner, the solar industry has been busy as homeowners gear up to install panels before the cold months ahead. The launch of Virginia’s new community solar garden, the notable success of Texas as a leader in renewables and a major amendment for Florida that will turn up the dial on solar growth are the bright headlines that caught our eye in this week’s Solar Energy News Report.
Virginia Launches Massive Community Solar Garden
It was another strong week for solar in the state of Virginia, where the BARC Electric Cooperative officially launched a 1,750-panel community solar garden. The massive array will provide power for Bath, Alleghany, Augusta, Highland and Rockbridge counties in the Southern Commonwealth. Overall, the tremendous solar array will power 203 homes and 9 businesses in Virginia. Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the new installation on Monday in a press event. “BARC’s community solar project is an excellent model for stabilizing and reducing energy costs, while delivering clean solar power to large segments of households on the grid,” said McAuliffe.
Texas Now #1 State for Renewable Energy
A number of impressive wind installations in the past few years have made Texas the clear U.S. leader in wind energy. This past February, Texas achieved a new benchmark by generating 50 percent of its electricity from wind on a particularly gusty day. As of April, the Lone Star State relies on wind for 16 percent of its total electricity.
But Texas renewables aren’t just about wind – Texas is also a top 10 state for solar energy with accelerated growth expected in the coming months. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) predicts an uptick of 15,000 megawatts of installed solar in the next 15 years. Currently, Texas has just 500 megawatts of PV. The Solar Energy Industry Association predicts that Texas will surge from 10th in U.S. installed capacity to 2nd, just behind California. When you consider Texas’ established wind economy and surging solar industry, one thing appears pretty clear: Texas is becoming the U.S. leader in renewable energy. For a state once considered a fossil fuel powerhouse, this transformation is iconic and certainly bodes well for the energy future of the U.S. as a whole.
Florida Passes Solar Tax Amendment With Near Unanimous Support
In a region accustomed to solar energy difficulties like a lack of proper incentives and state policies, it was a great week for solar in the Sunshine State. This past week, Floridians voted on an amendment to remove property taxes for solar homeowners. The result was decisive: with 73 percent of votes in favor, Florida passed the amendment with flying colors. It’s a significant victory for a state that has been an industry paradox – the state with the most concentrated and consistent sunlight in the nation has struggled to make solar a legitimate energy source. The resounding consensus on this vote is almost as big of a takeaway as the policy change itself: residents of Florida are ready for the Sunshine State to transition into a long-awaited, much overdue high growth period.
SolarCity Blocked From Representing Customers in Nevada Net Metering Case
The beginning of 2016 brought an optimistic solar tax credit extension by the federal government, but it also notched a troubling net-metering policy switch in Nevada. The Silver State’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) ruled to switch the rate at which solar homeowners are credited for surplus energy production, also known as net metering. The result: significantly reduced rates of compensation and, in a sense, the disappearance of one of Nevada’s biggest incentives for solar.
A major stakeholder in this decision and its protest has been lead U.S. solar installer SolarCity, who pulled operations from Nevada following the PUC announcement in January. In late July, NV Energy began the process of an official appeal to change the policy, which would allow homeowners who had installed solar panels prior to the policy change to keep their previous rates. Unfortunately for SolarCity, the PUC decided they will not allow the U.S. solar behemoth to represent its solar customers during the upcoming appeal. Though the company strongly opposes the measure and feels they are “the one party that the people of Nevada actually chose of their own volition,” the PUC does not believe in corporations representing the interests of civilians, marking the end of SolarCity’s legal impact on the future of solar in Nevada.