The second quarterly report from SEIA (Solar Energy industry Association) is in, and the numbers show yet another sunny quarter for the solar industry. The second best yet in terms of overall capacity installed, namely 832 megawatts. For comparison purposes, that’s roughly the equivalent of a coal or nuclear plant, i.e. we can replace a coal or nuclear plant with solar every three months. And this race has only just begun.
It was the utility sector that saw the biggest gains with a jump of 42 percent over the previous quarter. And huge solar installations like Ivanpah are coming online by the end of the year. However GTM Research still believes that, “Distributed generation is the big story in the U.S. solar market this year. We expect significant growth, especially in the residential sector. ”
The residential PV market remained stable in the second quarter, but the real news was that California PV installations increased 7 percent despite the end of the California Solar Initiative rebate program. A welcome sign that solar is becoming increasingly competitive with fossil fuel sources of energy.
SEIA also reports the solar industry is about to reach a number of milestones. The 100,000th individual solar system will be installed soon, and with 4.4 gigawatts of PV capacity expected to be added in the second half of this year, total installed solar capacity will surpass 10 gigawatts by year’s end.
Another encouraging trend the SEIA report highlights is how solar service companies are increasing the rate at which they install PV systems. This allows them to negotiate better equipment supply contracts and access lower cost of capital.
While both SEIA and GTM research are optimistic about solar, they also warn of looming risks for the market. Particularly the threat from utilities that are trying to eliminate Net Metering, which fairly compensates homeowners for the electricity their PV panels feed into the grid. This is the cornerstone policy that created successful solar markets across America.
In fact, it’s so successful the utilities are worried by the competition, and they’re starting to challenge Net Metering by claiming non-solar customers are being charged more because solar customers aren’t paying enough. Actually, research shows that Net Metering is a net benefit to consumers, because it reduces generation, transmission and distribution costs. The real problem for utilities is that it reduces their profits, because every home solar watt generated is a fossil watt that they didn’t sell. The next 12 months will be crucial in deciding how to appropriately value home solar and maintain fair prices for all ratepayers.
As long as Net Metering or similarly helpful solar policies are maintained, says SEIA President Rhone Resch, “America’s solar energy industry remains on course to have another record-shattering year. Today, there’s more than 9,370 megawatts (MW) of total solar electric capacity across the U.S. – enough to power more than 1.5 million American homes, including the White House. We’re helping to create new jobs, grow the U.S. economy, strengthen our nation’s long-term energy security and fight climate change. That’s a win-win in anyone’s book.”
Inexhaustible amounts of solar energy beamed everywhere, every day for free turns out to be good for business. Who knew?