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November 01 2013


U.S. Solar Industry Breaking Records in 2013

The U.S> solar industry makes great strides in 2013The U.S. solar industry has logged one of the strongest quarters ever and it has already eclipsed last year’s record breaking growth. The U.S. is riding the crest of a solar tsunami that is sweeping around the planet. Declining photovoltaic (PV) prices along with attractive incentives in Asia (Japan and China) are helping to power solar’s global growth in 2013. Around the world solar PV added 30.5 Gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in 2012 and Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that we will see 36.7 GW of additional PV capacity worldwide in 2013. The growth of solar power is so strong that it is outpacing wind energy for the first time this year.

Growth of solar 

In 2012, the U.S. brought more new solar capacity online than in the combined totals of the three previous years. In the first quarter (Q1) of 2013, solar power production was 537 megawatts (MW) of the 1,880 MW of utility power brought online. This represents about 30 percent of the new generation capacity. In Q2 Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that the U.S. installed 832 MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar power which represents a 15 percent increase over Q1. This is the second largest quarter in the history of U.S. Solar. It is worth noting that these numbers reflect only the larger generating facilities and not systems on homes or small businesses.

As of the end of Q2 2013, the cumulative commercial solar deployment totaled 3,380 MW and was located at more than 32,800 facilities across the country representing an increase of more than 40 percent over 2012. According to data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as of August 2013, the U.S. had already surpassed the year end totals for utility-scale solar installations in 2012 (1,774 MW compared to 1,476 MW).

The solar electric market will have another record year in 2013, with a projected year end total of 4,400 MW of PV (which represents 30 percent growth over 2012 installation totals) and over 900 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP). Together PV and CSP total energy output is equivalent to the energy required to power 860,000 American homes. Cumulative PV capacity is projected to surpass 10 GW by years end.

Drivers of solar

The most powerful driver of solar growth is declining prices. We have seen an 11 percent decrease in PV over the past year. Over the past two years PV prices have fallen by nearly 40 percent, and over the last three years the average price of solar panels has declined by 60 percent.

Other factors are also at play and they include renewable portfolio standards and renewable energy credits that have forced utilities to add in more solar. Businesses are looking to reduce their environmental impacts and cut energy costs. Across the board solar is being accepted as an increasingly mainstream and less esoteric form of energy.

Solar is an abundant source of energy, if only 1 percent of global landmass were covered in solar panels we could power all of the world’s energy needs. Solar is also a very popular energy source in the U.S. As revealed in a 2012 poll, 92 percent of American voters support developing more solar energy.

Economy and Employment

Solar is not just good for the environment it is also a powerful economic driver. According to the Solar Foundation, as of 2012, 119,000 Americans were already employed in the solar industry, this represents a 13.2 percent increase over the preceding year.

There are a total of 6,100 businesses operating across the U.S. In 2012 the total value of solar electric installations was $11.5 billion, compared to $8.6 billion in 2011 and $6 billion in 2010.


SEIA and the Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar) released their annual Solar Means Business report on October 15, they found that some of the biggest corporate entities in the U.S. Are helping to drive the growth of solar energy power production. The top 25 U.S. companies have deployed 445 megawatts of solar capacity, a 48 percent increase from one year ago.

SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said solar is,  “helping to create thousands of American jobs, boost the U.S. economy and improve our environment.  At the same time, they’re reducing operating expenses, which benefits both their customers and shareholders.”

Solar proves a competitive business advantage for some of America’s largest corporations. However, it is not just well known corporate behemoths like Walmart that are getting in on the action. A restaurant called Pizza Port in California has also installed solar panels into its operation, and the chain of five restaurants and breweries, expects to reduce energy costs by as much as $30,000 annually.

“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner.’ Well, solar has turned the corner, and found itself on Main Street, USA. These companies – titans of American business – may have vastly different products, business models, and geographic locations, but they all have something in common: they know a good deal when they see one, and they are going solar in a big way,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar.

Surprising States

There are several states that are well known solar players, they include California, Hawaii, Arizona, New Jersey, and North Carolina. However, as pointed out by GTM Research, there is a surprising amount of solar power anticipated from unlikely places with “hidden growth opportunities.” They include Minnesota, Virginia, Washington D.C., Louisiana and Georgia. GTM Research projects a total of over 1 GW of solar PV demand in these markets between the second half of 2013 and 2016.

Solar is providing an ever growing amount of energy to utilities, businesses and homes. Despite retrenchments due to oversupply and resultant low prices, U.S. solar will continue to shine well into the future.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Lance Cheung, courtesy flickr


The post U.S. Solar Industry Breaking Records in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 09 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Syria and the Price of Oil; Solar in the Move in the U.S.; Global Warming Splits the GOP

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Oil, Oil, Oil – the Syrian conflict is pushing up the price of oil, the recovering American economy is pushing up the price of oil, the price of oil will always be high and trending upwards. Producing oil at home is the purported escape from high global prices. But, that is not how oil prices work, you cannot escape the global price of oil.
  • A grand deal on the XL Keystone pipeline between Canada and Obama is underway. The new Canadian approach is to propose a reduction in the pollution of the oil and gas industry overall to justify the dirty XL Keystone Pipeline.
  • While many Americans have moved on from the BP-Transocean-Haliburton Gulf oil spill the clean-up continues. The cleanup effort nears conclusion not as all the oil is removed from the Gulf, but only that which is “feasible.” Think about that the next time you see a smiling BP representative on TV talking about how much they care for the region. Care too late that is.
  • Solar PV is exploding in the US. There are many reasons for this but the biggest influence is the federal tax credit. Since all sources of energy are subsidized by the government solar can not continue without a level playing field. It would be more simple to stop giving tax breaks to dirty energy companies, start a small carbon tax that grows with time, and eventually tax breaks for renewable energy would likely not be needed. The other reason why the sector is growing so quickly is the rapid technological innovation for solar. This development will continue and in the next 10 years we will hopefully have flexible,  high efficiency solar cells that are cheap and can be installed anywhere.
  • Crowd-funding to finance community renewable energy projects, is the business model of Solar Mosaic. Innovations like this are pushing solar forward.
  • Solar is growing and in places where it is successful the utilities are losing profit and are starting to fight back. To paraphrase Gandhi – First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win.
  • Not all Republicans are climate change deniers. There is a split amongst Republicans on this issue and I think that as Republicans lose more national elections they will be pressured to come around on this issue.



The post Enviro News Wrap: Syria and the Price of Oil; Solar in the Move in the U.S.; Global Warming Splits the GOP appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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August 05 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Young U.S. Voters Want Climate Action; Fossil Energy Divestment Takes Hold; Utilities vs. Rooftop Solar…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Young people in America know that global warming is real; as long as we can get them to vote we will never have another President that opposes a healthy environment. And, when did having a healthy environment become just a Democrat thing? Nixon passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and created the Environmental Protection Agency. Bush the First updated the Clean Air Act and created a market based solution to acid rain. Its weird days in the US when a powerful political party is actively trying to ruin the only land we have.
  • If you don’t want dirty energy companies affecting politics, then why invest in them? Divestment is becoming more popular and is a needed correction. You should vote the same way you buy products and invest your money. Don’t let your money speak louder than your vote.
  • Many utilities in the US are trying to kill the advance of solar. Instead they should embrace the movement of innovation in energy. Our current way of producing and delivering energy is antiquated and still, in the world’s richest nation most people lose power 1-7 days a year. We need new ideas about how to produce sustainable energy and overcome the inherent challenges of wind and solar, because it is true that the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.
  • There are about 20 US states supportive of solar PV. If you live in one you should look into getting solar on your home. Solar energy is true energy independence.
  • Hybrid cars are selling well in America, 300,000 sold so far this year, but few all-electric cars (EV) have been sold. The electric car will have its time, but it is new to the mass market and needs to continue innovating. Batteries need to be smaller, cheaper, quicker to charge and have less of an environmental impact. The cool thing about electric vehicles is that they are as environmentally friendly as the fuel for the battery, so PV solar is a perfect companion for EVs.
  • The enormous Alberta Tar Sands operation has unintended consequences. Sometimes when drilling for oil a pipe just starts pulling up oil and spilling on the surface. This is happening in Canada and its awful. There is pressure in the EU to reclassify oil from the Tar Sands as a banned import.
  • Azerbaijan is going Green.
  • Laboratory meat has been achieved, its taste is described as “edible.” When we can grow authentic tasting steaks will it become the new standard? Without the land impact lab meat is the better option for the environment. Only problem is that lab meat could become cheap and abundant and encourage rich people to eat more of it and poor people to start eating it everyday (eating less local food). We would be increasing obesity, population growth and mechanizing and centralizing our food even further. Are we stuck in a cycle that we can not get out of?


The post Enviro News Wrap: Young U.S. Voters Want Climate Action; Fossil Energy Divestment Takes Hold; Utilities vs. Rooftop Solar… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 18 2013


Solar is Shining Bright in 2013 and Beyond

Solar industry promises rapid growth in 2013 and beyondGlobally, we have surpassed the 100 GW threshold of installed solar power.  As reported in Triple Pundit, India and Spain have both achieved grid parity and Italy is also competitive. Grid parity is the holy grail of renewable energy, it is the point at which  generating electricity is equal in cost, or cheaper than conventional grid power.

The falling costs of solar panels are making solar energy competitive and this trend is expected to continue. The cost of Chinese solar panels is expected to drop to a new low of 42 cents per watt by 2015, which will make power generated from solar cheaper than both coal and most forms of natural gas within a decade.

Overview of U.S. Solar 2011 – 2012

Solar is an increasingly competitive source of energy. According to U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2012 by GTM research and the Solar Energy Industries  Association (SEIA), in 2012, the U.S. solar market grew at the astounding rate of 76 percent. This makes solar the fastest growing energy source in the U.S.  The U.S. installed 3,313 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2012, a record for the industry.

The market size of the U.S. solar industry grew 34 percent from $8.6 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion in 2012. As of the end of 2012, there were 7,221 MW of PV and 546 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) online in the U.S. Which is enough to power 1.2 million homes.

In 2012, California became the first state to install more than 1,000 MW in one year, with growth across all market segments. Arizona came in as the second largest market, led by large-scale utility installations, while New Jersey experienced growth in the state’s non-residential market.

The report found that there are now more than 300,000 PV systems operating across the U.S.? Twelve states installed over 50 MW of solar each in 2012, up from eight in 2011?.

“All of these data point to solar having turned the corner,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “Solar is an affordable option for homes and businesses today, and is well on its way to becoming a substantial part of America’s energy portfolio.”

U.S Solar 2013 and Beyond

SEIA and GTM Research expect the growth to continue into 2013 and beyond. The report forecasts 4,300 MW of new PV installations in 2013, up 29 percent over 2012, and 946 MW of concentrating solar power. Over the next four years, the residential and non-residential markets are expected to gain market share as system prices decline, the industry becomes even more efficient, and new financing channels arise.

Going forward, it would appear that solar will continue to grow at an even faster rate. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that solar installations will more than double to 230 GW by 2017. Deutsche Bank has forecasted that solar will be standing on its own feet, saying, “We see the sector transitioning from subsidized to sustainable markets in 2014.”

U.S. solar appears to be growing at ever faster rates. The performance of U.S. solar in the first half of 2013 exceeds the growth of solar in the first half of 2012 (1.8 GW compared to 1.3 GW). The utility-scale market was responsible for at least 45 percent of solar PV installations.

The report forecasts ongoing growth in the North American solar sector, “Cumulative solar PV installations are forecast to increase an additional 80 percent over the next 18 months, surpassing 17 GW by the end of 2014.”

While we have seen strong solar performances from the Southwest and Southeast regions, there are tremendous opportunities for growth in largely untapped areas of the Great Plains and Great Lakes regions.

According to the SEIA report. “Solar PV has been one of the fastest growing energy sources in the U.S. over the past six years, with a compound annual growth rate of over 50 percent since 2007,” Most of Solar’s U.S. growth (83 percent) has occurred since 2010.

The declining price of solar since 2011 is driving this growth. “Average installed system prices in the US have declined from around $6 per watt two years ago to approximately $4.25 per watt for residential installations and $3 per watt for large utility-scale PV projects today,” the report states.

The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative is aiming for $1 per installed watt.

NPD Solarbuzz reports that there are now almost 1,400 solar PV installations in excess of 500kW size which have been completed in 39 different states so far with many others under construction. This has accounted for approximately 5.4GW of new capacity in the US.

Although nearly 40 percent of the new capacity has been installed in California, on the other side of the continent, New York is also rapidly growing its solar energy infrastructure. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is investing in large-scale solar energy projects across the state as part of his NY-Sun initiative.

NPD Solarbuzz latest “North American PV Market Quarterly” reports indicate that due to state incentive programs, the U.S. has installed more than 1.8 GW of photovoltaics (PV) in the first half of 2013, which has pushed the U.S. beyond 10 GW of installed solar power. This is a momentous milestone for the U.S., as the nation now joins Germany, China and Italy, which are already producing more than 10 gigawatts of solar power.


Germany is the undisputed global leader in solar power. Thanks in large measure to the nation’s feed-in tariffs (FiT), Germany now has five times as much solar power as the U.S.

Germany is a nation that proves the point that solar can supply a substantial percentage of national energy requirements. At various times, between one third and one half of all of Germany was powered by electricity generated by solar plants.

Germany keeps breaking its own solar records. In 2012, German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity (the equivalent of more than 20 nuclear power plants). Germany set yet another record in July climbing ahead of the earlier record of 23.4 GW it set set in June. At its peak on July 7, the output got up to 23.9 GW. This is about 40 percent of the country’s electricity demand.

Approximately 1.3–1.4 million solar power systems were involved in creating that massive electricity output. About 8.5 million Germans live in buildings where solar power systems are used to produce electricity or heat.

Germany is not the only country benefiting from harnessing the sun’s rays, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic actually beat Germany on solar power per GDP.


No country is growing its solar energy infrastructure faster than China. According to a July 15 statement from the State Council, China will increase its installed solar capacity to 35 GW by 2015. The country plans to add 10 GW of solar-power capacity annually over the next three years.

China is already the world’s biggest maker of solar panels, but it is suffering from oversupply. The expansion of domestic solar installations is designed to increase demand and address some of the problem of oversupply.

To achieve its ambitious goal, China will help to provide credit support for profitable photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers, encourage overseas investment and offer tax breaks to solar companies that acquire others, merge or reorganize their operations. The government will also encourage partnerships between the makers of polysilicon (used to make solar panels) with chemical companies.

With this consorted national effort, China is expected to surpass Germany as the global solar leader in the very near future.

Large scale solar projects

There are a number of PV power plants that use the abundant renewable energy emanating from the sun. In 2012, the world’s largest solar thermal plant opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The new plant is almost double the size of what was previously the largest solar thermal facility (located in Denmark), and it will generate enough power to heat water for a university of 40,000 students. Here is a compilation of  some of the larger solar PV plants around the world:

  • The Huanghe Hydropower Golmud Solar Park in China which generates 317 MWs. It was completed in October 2011 and is located within a group of 570 MW of co-located plants.
  • The Solarpark Seftenberg photovoltaic power plant is located close to the city of Senftenberg, Eastern Germany, which was earlier used as an open-pit mining area. This 78 MW plant, consisting of 62 central inverter stations and around 330,000 crystalline solar modules, is capable of generating 166 MW because it includes another plant sharing the common infrastructure having an overall capacity of 70 MW and one more power plant with a capacity of 18 MW. One of the most interesting aspects of this installation is the fact that it was built in only 3 months.
  • Neuhardenberg Solar Park is located in Germany and was completed in September 2012. It has a production capacity of 145 MW. It is located within a group of 11 co-located plants in the Brandenburg-Briest Solarpark.
  • oul-Rosières Solar Park in France was completed in July 2012 and has a production capacity of 115 MW. The solar park has about 1.4 million thin-film PV panels made by First Solar.
  • The Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant located near Sarnia, Ontario in Canada was completed in September 2010. The 950 acres installation is covered by 1.3 million thin film solar panels and has an annual yield of about 120 MW.
  • Perovo Solar Park Ukraine was completed 2011; it has 440,000 solar panels and has a generation capacity of 100 MW.
  • The Finsterwalde Solar Park was completed in 2010 and has a total capacity of 80 MW.  It is located in Finsterwalde, Germany.
  • The Leiberose Photovoltaic Park operated by the Juwi Group and is located in Leiberose, Brandenburg, Germany, went fully on line in October 2009 and has a total capacity of 71.8 MW. The highly energy efficient solar park consists of 700,000 solar panels.
  • The Montalto di Castro photovoltaic power station located in Viterbo, Italy is the largest photovoltaic power plant in Italy. The total capacity of this plant is 44 MW.

New large scale U.S. solar projects

  • Copper Mountain Solar Facility has a production capacity of 150 MWs. Phase 1 was completed in December 2010 and phase 2 was completed in January 2013.
  • California Valley Solar Ranch, it was completed in February 2013 and has a production capacity of 130 MW.
  • Mesquite Solar project in Arizona will generate up to 700 MW when completed.
  • Agua Caliente Solar Project in Arizona will generate 397 MW when completed.
  • Antelope Valley Solar Ranch in California will generate 230 MW when completed.

U.S. solar jobs

There were more than 119,000 Americans employed by the solar industry in 2012. According to the Solar Foundation, between 2011 and 2012 the solar industry adding almost 14,000 U.S. jobs, this represents a 13.2 percent job growth rate. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the overall economy grew at a mere 2.3 percent in this timeframe.

It is clear that the U.S. solar industry is creating jobs in America and helping to grow the economy. “Today, solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, providing good-paying jobs for more than 119,000 American workers,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA.

Innovative solar technologies

There are a number of new solar technologies that can make this industry even more competitive. One of these is Arizona based First Solar (FSLR), the thin-film solar leader, which has developed a new cadmium telluride solar module efficiency record that absolutely crushes the previous record (also held by FSLR).First Solar achieved an NREL-confirmed efficiency of 16.1 percent, which erases the previous record of 14.4 percent that the firm set last year. Researchers are engaged in solar innovation all around the world.

Scientists at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, have set a new efficiency record for thin-film copper indium gallium (di)selenid (or CIGS) based solar cells on flexible polymer foils, reaching an efficiency of 20.4 percent. This is an increase from a previous record of 18.7 percent set by Empa in 2011.

Israeli startup Solaris Synergy has developed a water based technology to create a floating concentrated photovotaic (CPV) system instead of the traditional land-based solar system. CPV systems focus a large amount of sunlight onto a small area to generate electricity by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity. Solaris Synergy’s floating CPV system features a modular design that supports a wide range of power outputs. The company claims that their solar-on-water solution dramatically lowers the cost of renewable energy production since the water surface is also used for cooling the solar panels. This cooling system keeps the silicon elements used as semiconductors at a low temperature and therfore increases their power generation efficiency and extends their lifespan.

Other firms innovating new technologies include California based companies Reel Solar and Bloo Solar, and Calyxo in Germany to name but a few.

Solar not only provides electricity and heat it is also providing power for a number of traditionally GHG intensive transportation mediums like cars, boats, planes, and even elevators.

Solar may not be a panacea for our fossil fuel dependant energy woes, but it is a vital part of clean power solutions that can help pull us back from the brink of runnaway climate change.


Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: World Bank, courtesy flickr


The post Solar is Shining Bright in 2013 and Beyond appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

June 24 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Obama to Address Climate Strategy; World Bank Commits Billions to Alleviate Climate Impacts; Learning the Lessons of Sandy (or not)

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Obama will outline a grand national climate change plan on Tuesday June 25th.  I hope this effort does not turn out like healthcare did, we need a real solution, not a watered down compromise that panders to skeptics. Obama has executive powers that he has been using, like executive orders and regulation via the EPA, but what legislation will he be able to push through the obstructionist legislature? Straight regulation of CO2 emissions is what we need. And not just because CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but because when you reduce CO2 emissions you also reduce emissions of a whole host of other environmentally damaging pollutants.
  • The World Bank has funded environmentally devastating projects for decades to “develop” the economies of the world. They have opened up markets in Asia, Africa and South America with transportation and energy projects. Now, after all those changes the World Bank is stepping in to help alleviate the effects of so much development. They are now funding projects to protect people from the effects of climate change.
  • Central America has a lot of support for environmental causes amongst the citizens - but an overall plan between the countries would advance the effort greatly.
  • How many people worldwide are employed in the renewable energy sector? Find out here.
  • I sell Solar PV to homeowners and commercial building owners for a living. The thing I spend most of my time talking about with customers is aesthetics and return on investment. The environmentally positive aspects of solar energy is only a small factor in the equation. The average American is willing to buy green, but only if it makes or saves them money. Incentives matter with a “free market” economy, if the incentives for green products is not there then few people will buy.
  • Learning lessons from Sandy? Government subsidized coastal development resumes after Super-storm Sandy tore apart the East coast. This happens all the time, it is both costly and dumb.


The post Enviro News Wrap: Obama to Address Climate Strategy; World Bank Commits Billions to Alleviate Climate Impacts; Learning the Lessons of Sandy (or not) appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 02 2010


Shortage in parts for solar panels

Numbers of water voles, inspiration for Ratty in Wind in the Willows, up.
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