Is Solar Leading US Energy, In Terms Of Installations?

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Originally Published in the ECOreport

Solar Panels in the Midst - Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation, CC by SA, 2.0
Solar Panels in the Midst – Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation, CC by SA, 2.0

The most recent Ferc report states that the Natural gas sector continues to lead the US, in terms of installation capacity, for 2014. As of the end of June, there were 18 new facilities with a total capacity of 1,555 MW. While this is more than the 1,131 MW for solar, the report is restricted to utility scale solar. Based on previous returns, the addition of data from rooftop and commercial solar installations might change this. Is Solar the Leading US Energy, in terms of installations?

According to data from the Solar Industries Association (SEIA), more than 44% of solar capacity installed during the first quarter was non-utility. If that proportion continued to the end of June, solar is leading the nation in terms of installations.

An Energy information Administration (EIA) report predicts that 60% of the solar installations during the next 26 years will be in the rooftop sector.

“Solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy today – and, as this report bears out, it will continue to be for years and years to come. The continued, rapid deployment of solar nationwide will create thousands of new American jobs, pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy and help to significantly reduce pollution,” Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Industries Association (SEIA) said in a recent press release.

He added, “This progress could be jeopardized if smart public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS), come under renewed attack by entrenched fossil fuel interests.”

Regardless of whether natural gas or solar leads, most installations were made in the renewable sector. Another 1,965 MW of renewable capacity was added YTD, not counting rooftop or commercial solar.

According to Ken Bossong of the Sun Day Campaign, “Renewables have accounted for approximately 45% of all new electrical generating capacity over the past 3 1/2 years.”

Wind Turbines at Sunrise  - Emilian Robert Vicol, Public Domain Photos, CC by SA, 2.0
Wind Turbines at Sunrise – Emilian Robert Vicol, Public Domain Photos, CC by SA, 2.0

The wind industry continues to slump as a result of Congress’ not having renewed the Federal Tax credit. Professor Dan Kammen of UC Berkeley described compared it to a switch, which can turn this sector on or off. Only 699 MW of capacity has been installed YTD. By way of comparison, 12,000 MW were installed when the tax credit was active in 2012.

Other renewable installations were, by capacity: 87 MW of Biomass, 32 MW of Geothermal and 16MW of Hydopower.

The only new installations from more conventional sectors have been two oil plants with a total capacity of 9 MW.

There has been no growth in the number of new nuclear or coal facilities.

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Roy L Hales

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

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