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Published on April 18th, 2014 | by Tina Casey

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Every 4 Minutes, Another American Home Or Business Goes Solar

April 18th, 2014 by  


If you missed yesterday’s Solar Summit at the White House, we have the whole rundown for you, including this little nugget: every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar. No, for realz. That’s a direct quote from the Solar Summit fact sheet.

However, apparently that four-minute mark is not good enough for the Obama Administration, which just used the Solar Summit to launch a whole new raft of initiatives that will ramp up the pace of development even faster. Combined with the falling-off-the-cliff trend in solar pricing, you’re looking at a major trend in US workforce development that should bury that tired old “jobs-versus-environment” argument once and for all.

Fort Carson solar panels

Military solar installation on former landfill (cropped) courtesy of US Army.

New Solar Summit Programs

You can find the fact sheet at whitehouse.gov, but for those of you on the run, here is a quick summary of the Solar Summit solar programs. Since we’ve covered most of these topics at CleanTechnica and our sister site Planetsave, we’re also including some links to previous articles so you can see how these new initiatives dovetail with other ongoing programs.

Regional Solar Market Pathways: This $15 million Energy Department initiative is in support of state, tribal, and local leaders to streamline “soft cost” barriers to cost-competitive solar, including shared or community solar programs.

Solar at Federally-Assisted Housing: A 100 megawatt target for installing solar on millions of rooftops at subsidized housing, supported by the Energy Department’s SunShot initiative and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

On-Site Renewables Challenge: This EPA initiative is being launched as part of the agency’s Green Power Partnership, which teams it with businesses, local and state governments, schools, and other federal agencies to install on-site solar power. The new Renewables Challenge is in support of EPA’s new goal of doubling the use of on-site renewable energy by participants in the Green Power Partnership.

Solar Deployment Playbook: This new Energy Department toolkit for businesses won’t be completed for another three months or so, but when it is ready it will help take the guesswork out of financing renewable energy systems and calculating bottom-line savings.

More Solar Goodies

Rural Utilities Service: This existing Agriculture Department program will use the long-standing rural electric co-op model to boost rural rural solar development, including distributed solar. Partners include the Energy Department and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. This initiative will also dovetail with the new Solar at Federally-Assisted Housing initiative.

Guide to Federal Financing for Clean Energy: This is another soon-to-be-released financing toolkit from the Energy Department, which pulls together all the financing information for solar projects from various federal agencies including Treasury, EPA, and USDA (that could include financing for renewable energy development on brownfields and Superfund sites, too).

Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee Solicitation: The Energy Department couldn’t wait for the Solar Summit to release this initiative, which was announced earlier this week. It’s a $2.5 billion in loan guarantee authority in support of solar innovation, with a focus on distributed generation and energy storage (a new distributed solar-friendly FERC order should help that along).

But Wait, There’s More

Bolstering Co-Investment in Renewable Energy and Natural Gas: Meh. We’re not so excited about this one for obvious reasons, but the fact is that natural gas is going to be around for the foreseeable future, fracking or no fracking. The idea is to link gas-fired power plants with cost-competitive solar technology to minimize the use of gas.

Capital Solar Challenge: Under this initiative, the Energy Department and General Service Administration will support Federal agencies in the deployment of solar energy throughout the National Capital Region. That includes military installations and subsidized housing. This initiative dovetails with a parallel effort by the D.C. municipal government and other solar stakeholders, boosting the nation’s capital growing reputation as a global solar showcase.

Solar Deployment at Military Installations: Did you guess that this is our favorite one of all? The Solar Summit reaffirms the role of the Department of Defense in pushing the market for US solar development, with the goal of installing a total of 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations by 2025. That massive new solar project at Fort Huachuca (the largest DoD solar project to date) is just the tip of the iceberg.

Are We Done Yet?

A few more factoids from the fact sheet popped out at us. Installed solar power in the US jumped from 1.2 GW in 2008 to an estimated 13 GW as of today, an eleven-fold increase. Solar was the second-largest source of new electricity added to the grid in 2013. Since 2010, the cost of solar panels in the US has dropped more than 60% on average, and the overall cost of a solar photovoltaic electric system has been chopped in half.

The amount of renewable energy produced on public lands was 0 watts five years ago. Today, lands controlled by the Interior Department, DoD, and other federal agencies are humming with action. Interior alone is on track to process permits for renewable energy projects that will power 6 million homes by 2020.

Solar industry sources calculate that US employment in this sector has climbed up to almost 143,000 workers. That’s 50 percent more than in 2010. The trend is a growth rate of more than 20 percent annually, which makes solar the fastest-growing sector in the US. And finally, we’re still trying to figure out why they buried the lede at the very bottom of the fact sheet, but here’s that money quote:

Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar, supporting workers whose jobs can’t be outsourced.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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