Solar Power Heating Up in 2019

Solar Field just off I-95 in Florence, South Carolina        Photo: Monica Medina

By Alexandra Patel and Monica Medina

This week as you sit in the sun somewhere (we hope), consider that solar power is surging in the U.S.  A recent report from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association announced that the first quarter of 2019 was the strongest in the U.S. solar industry’s history with 2.7 gigawatts of solar capacity added to the grid.

  • Large scale utility solar projects, such those taking place in Florida and the Carolinas, accounted for 61 percent of this expansion and are expected to increase by another 46 percent.
  • And Los Angeles city officials have just struck a deal on the largest and cheapest and highest capacity solar/battery-storage project in the world, which will serve 7% of the city’s power demand at a cost of half that of a new natural gas plant.

Why This Matters: The international consensus among scientists is that to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, temperature increases must not exceed 2 degrees Celsius. To achieve this goal, transitioning to clean energy, specifically that of solar energy, is crucial to sustaining the U.S. economy while simultaneously curtailing the negative impacts of energy generation on the environment. New York is already taking the first step towards a net zero economy through large investments in solar energy and is predicted to reach its goals by 2050 should it stay on track.  And now Los Angeles has struck a revolutionary deal that leaves fossil fuels and nuclear power in the dust.  The prospects for a clean energy future in the U.S. are getting brighter.

Solar Power Booming in the South

National Public Radio reported last week about how the decreasing cost of solar technology, available land and lots of sunshine are driving demand for massive, utility-scale solar projects across the American Southeast.

Where the US Stands Now: The is a strong bounce back from last year during which solar installations dropped by 2 percent.  Solar energy doesn’t even makeup 2 percent of the U.S. energy generation. Falling costs, however, according to the Energy Information Administration, are setting up the industry to be the “fastest growing source of U.S. electricity generation for at least the next two years.” Coal generation in comparison continues to fall and accounts for only 28 percent of U.S. energy generation.  Forbes quoted Mark Z. Jacobson, the Stanford professor who developed roadmaps for transitioning 139 countries to 100 percent renewables, hailed the LA solar/battery deal on Twitter Friday, saying, “Goodnight #naturalgas, goodnight #coal, goodnight #nuclear.”

Impacts of U.S.-imposed Tariffs: As part of the ongoing trade war with China, in 2018, Trump added a 30 percent tariff on foreign-produced solar panels, which had a negative effect on its domestic solar industry as it heavily relies on cheap imports. Despite the “truce” declared by President Trump after meeting with Chinese President Xi last week, the current tariffs remain in place.  Even so, 80 percent of utility-scale solar projects undertaken in 2018 were signed under voluntary procurement versus the 11 percent that was mandated. “We’re in a position where we’re seeing a lot of market growth beyond what we initially expected a year ago or simply overcome any impacts of the tariffs” states a senior analyst of Wood Mackenzie.

Up Next

BP Commits To Slashing Its Oil and Gas Operations, A Necessary Step for Climate Action

BP Commits To Slashing Its Oil and Gas Operations, A Necessary Step for Climate Action

As Greentech Media reported, oil and gas giant BP announced yesterday that it will cut its oil and gas output by 40% by 2030 and increase its low-carbon investment tenfold by then as it begins to detail its 2050 net-zero strategy. This announcement comes after BP head of strategy Giulia Chierchia told investors on a […]

Continue Reading 637 words
Electric Vehicles Still Charging Ahead

Electric Vehicles Still Charging Ahead

Investment in electric vehicles and their components and infrastructure continue to grow in spite of the pandemic and economic downturn, not to mention the infancy of the market.  According to MarketWatch.com, there is “sky high” investor interest in clean energy and electric vehicle companies.

Why This Matters:  Former Vice President Biden’s new clean energy jobs proposal revives the “cash for clunkers” program but in a way that would juice this market.

Continue Reading 498 words
China’s Purchases and Investments In US Energy Are On Their Terms

China’s Purchases and Investments In US Energy Are On Their Terms

President Trump trumpeted his trade deal with China, but so far it has been a bust, according to The Wall Street Journal — the Chinese have not purchased nearly the amount of energy (in terms of total dollars) as they promised — only $2B in oil and gas purchases against a commitment of $25B for this year.

Why This Matters:  Trump’s energy policy is a colossal failure, especially when measured against his outlandish campaign promise of complete energy independence.

Continue Reading 550 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.