Solar On and Under Fire

Solar On and Under Fire

Solar is soaring, but some are stopping at no end to stall its success.
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#solar is soaring, but some are stopping at no end to stall its success. via @SaraGBM

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Green Builder Media CEO, Sara Gutterman

Green Builder Media

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - 8:00am

CAMPAIGN: Ethical and Sustainable Living


Solar is on fire. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Energy Infrastructure Report, solar and wind represented 100% of the nation’s new generating capacity in April. The U.S. Energy Information Agency reports that, among the U.S. renewable portfolio, solar is growing the fastest, primarily because of the cost benefit—the price of solar photovoltaics (PV) has plummeted 99% over the last four decades, from $74/watt in 1972 to less than $.07/watt in 2014. Improvements in technology and the creation of innovative financing models from companies like SolarCity that have reduced or eliminated upfront acquisition and installation costs have also played an essential role in the accelerated adoption of solar PV.

A recent study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology stated that “solar electricity generation is one of very few low-carbon energy technologies with the potential to grow to very large scale. As a consequence, massive expansion of global solar generating capacity to multi-terawatt scale is very likely an essential component of a workable strategy to mitigate climate change risk.”

Given the colossal growth opportunity and our urgent environmental need for clean energy sources, one would think that companies of all kinds, particularly utilities, would concoct innovative ways to capture a piece of the success pie. But, in reality, something very different is happening. Instead of getting in on the game, utilities and lawmakers are digging in and waging war, which is becoming increasingly problematic for the solar industry, particularly in light of expiring tax credits, difficult grid integration and demand-side synchronization, and swelling political polarization.