The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA)’s and GTM Research’s “Google Hangout” on their new Solar Market Insight 2012 report just ended, and it was highly informative. If you missed it, here’s a quick recap.
- According to SEIA, “2012 was a historic and busy year for the U.S. solar energy industry,” in which PV installations “grew 76% over 2011, to total 3,313 megawatts (MW) in 2012, with an estimated market value of $11.5 billion.”
- SEIA President Rhone Resch stressed that solar power is becoming increasingly affordable, as solar panel prices plummet and completed systems costs fall as well. Resch added that this increased competitiveness has led “icons of American business” like Walmart, as well as the U.S. military, to develop solar power projects as a good investment.
- Resch also stressed that the U.S. public overwhelmingly supports greater use of solar, and that this support is bipartisan.
- Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy (one of North America’s leading solar project developers) said that when you look at the numbers, solar power is now mainstream, affordable, scaling, and attracting the capital it needs to grow. The results is a multi-gigawatt industry in the US, with even bigger opportunities ahead.
- Just in the past few years, Harris argues, solar power has leapfrogged from one of the most expensive sources of energy, to the 2nd or 3rd LEAST expensive source of energy (e.g., 6-7 cents per kilowatt-hour wholesale).
- Shayle Kann of GTM said that the U.S. share of the world solar industry is now growing, and the price dropping, with room for significant further reductions in solar balance-of-system costs.
- Kann noted that while California remains a vital part of the U.S. solar market, the industry is spreading to all 50 states .It’s also also expanding into every market segment, including increasingly competitive distributed generation in the residential sector.
- New financing models – REITs, MLPs, crowdsourcing – plus policies like net metering were identified as potentially having a major impact on solar power in the US. Arno Harris noted that REITs and MLPs would allow solar to tap into a pool of capital that would cost just 5%-6%. However, Harris added, before that happens, REITs need IRS clarification, and MLPs will require new legislation.
- Rhone Resch stressed the importance of net metering as a fundamental market access issue. Resch argued that it’s absolutely crucial to lift the caps on net metering and let the market work . Resch added that distributed generation is also about grid integrity, energy security, and cybersecurity
- Resch argued that it’s time for governments, such as Arizona’s ACC, to stop siding with “antiquated,” “polluting” energy sources over solar power. The problem, according to Resch, is that fossil fuel interests now see solar is a major threat, and are pouring money into fighting it, via fossil-funded think tanks and other means. Give solar the same stability as fossil fuels have had, Resch argued, and the solar industry will continue to grow fast.
- With regard to power storage, the consensus seemed to be that it will be critical for solar growth in the longer run, but not necessarily at the moment. Also, as Resch explained, storage isn’t an issue specific to solar, but more of an energy infrastructure issue generally speaking.
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