Clean Power

Published on July 30th, 2015 | by Roy L Hales

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There May Be 500,000,000 Solar Panels On US Roofs With Hillary Clinton At Helm

July 30th, 2015 by  

With Hillary Clinton leading the pack of US presidential hopefuls, the United States could increase its solar capacity by 700% by 2020. The latest CNN poll shows 44% of the voters respondents favourable to her. This is quite a lead over the two next-most-favoured candidates, Republicans Jeb Bush and Donald Trump (who both had 34%). Her Democratic challenger, Bernie Sanders, may be “moving up” but has a long way to go with only 24%. If Hilary Clinton is elected, as seems very likely, there may be 500,000,000 panels on US roofs by the end of 2020.

It’s Hard To Believe

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“It’s hard to believe there are people running for President who still refuse to accept the settled science of climate change, who would rather remind us they are not scientists than listen to those who are,” says Clinton in the video above.

She has a goal of 140 GW for US solar capacity by 2021.

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“Although it’s a big number … it’s not a number that I’d characterize as entirely unreasonable. You would not have been able to say that even four years ago. That fact alone really demonstrates the tremendous progress the solar industry has made,” Francis O’Sullivan, director of research and analysis with the MIT Energy Initiative, told the Washington Examiner. “It shines a light on how solar is no longer this niche business.”

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The Clean Energy Challenge

One of Clinton’s top priorities is to fight attempts to roll back President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Her campaign’s Vision for Renewable Power Fact Sheet explained, “The Clean Power Plan is a crucial tool in our national strategy to reduce carbon pollution, level the playing field for and increase the deployment of renewable energy, and build a clean energy future. In the face of attacks from climate change deniers, we will need a champion in the White House to defend it and implement it effectively. But smart federal standards set the floor, not the ceiling. We can and must go further.”

Clinton wants to launch a Clean Energy Challenge partnership with states, cities, and rural areas that are ready to lead on clean energy initiatives. This could involve grants and market-based incentives, as well as awards for communities that cut down the red tape that slows solar installations.

Would this lead to more reports of industrial-scale projects being imposed on rural communities? Or will communities be given more of a voice in the decision process?

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More “All Of The Above”

Yet even under Clinton, the US would continue to pursue an “all of the above” energy strategy. About 67% of US electricity generation came from fossil fuels in 2014. The principal contributors were coal (39%) and natural gas (27%). Renewables only produced 13.4%.

Clinton wants to increase this to 33% by 2027. Some of this growth will come naturally. Even if no new policies are implemented, the renewable share is expected to rise to 16%, and under Obama’s Clean Power Plan, it could reach 25%.

Clinton has yet to make her position on the Keystone XL Pipeline known. She says she’s waiting for President Obama and Secretary Kerry to decide.

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Republican Challengers

The most reasonable-sounding Republican challenger, Jeb Bush, supports the Keystone XL pipeline and claims Obama’s reluctance to accept it “is insulting to our neighbour to the North.”

Bush is against the kind of subsidies that would fuel rapid solar deployment: “I think we should phase out, through tax reform, the tax credits for wind, for solar, for the oil and gas sector, for all that stuff.”

This sounds reasonable — if you are not convinced that human activity is causing warmer temperatures, wildfires, and extreme weather events. Jeb Bush recently acknowledged, “climate change is happening,” but wasn’t sure, “whether men are doing it or not.”

Some Republican candidates — like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — totally deny climate change. They received 24% and 22% approval ratings in the CNN poll.

Though Donald Trump received a stronger rating, it is more difficult to take him seriously. Earlier this year, Trump told Fox News that climate change is a “hoax.” Two years prior to that he tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

Is that a joke? Or is Donald Trump?

Unless there is a drastic change, the US will elect its first female president in 2016, and the Clean Energy Challenge could become a reality.

Photo Credit: Youtube video “Stand For Reality”; screenshot from “Stand For Reality”; :Hilary Clinton, by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on Youtube (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); two graphs from the Clinton campaign; Jeb Bush as the White Knight (from 2012) – courtesy DonkeyHotey (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)


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About the Author

is the editor of the ECOreport (www.theecoreport.com), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America and writes for both CleanTechnica and Planetsave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over a thousand articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.



  • Phill Round

    The greater the increased numbers of homes converted to Solar in the US will be an increasing compelling force for the usage of solar as a viable energy source worldwide. Setting an example will greatly influence other countries to wake up to the positive advantages of solar. Set the standard USA! I am sure you can change the world in a positive manner.

    Such as Elon Musk 😉

  • Its Obvious

    I think the Germans are the ones who will show the way with both battery storage and renewables. They are light years ahead of North America. Plus this has much more to do with simple economics than with any politician. With grid parity pretty much here the market is shifting regardless of who appears to be signing the papers in the Oval office.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’m betting not.

      All the really promising stuff that I know about (EOS, Ambri, Alevo, most flow batteries) are US based.

      The US onshore wind industry is pretty strong. Germany is ahead with offshore wind.

      • Ross

        This is a global transformation that is there for the taking by the US when it steps up to the plate.

        • jeffhre

          Or China.

      • Larmion

        The US onshore wind industry is… well… GE. And a few guys putting GE turbines in fields.

        Germany has Siemens, the world leader, as well as Enercon, Nordex, Senvion and a few smaller players. More importantly, it’s also home to most of the companies designing and manufacturing wind turbine parts.

        As for storage: it has never been a core part of German policy, and rightfully so. As the studies by Agora Energiewende show, a strong, transnational grid makes storage a pointless expense. At best batteries might help make home PV even more profitable, but they’re not going to make or break the Energiewende in any way.

        That said, Younicos isn’t too shabby. They’re using off-the-shelf batteries from Asia – like Tesla – but pair them with very effective control software.

        Germany is light years ahead of the US – and anyone else – in renewable energy. Even in industries where the manufacturing side has shifted to China, like solar PV, German companies are still providing the machines and process engineering expertise that said Chinese factories depend on.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Germany basically relies on the rest of Europe as its battery. It would be sort of expensive to run an extension cord from the US to Europe so that we could do the same.

          Perhaps that’s why the US is likely to be the leader in storage development.

  • Simple Indian

    This is absolutely not feasible each person should have one solar panel for one year of presidency. I dont want each person to have enough to charge only a flashlight. Make it 2 Billion panels madam.

  • Brian Kent

    It’s hard to believe that Clinton will talk like this and accept fossil fuel industry campaign contributions at the same time.

    People will realize what a good President Obama has been when the next whiffle ball gets pitched to the baseball bat of the American public.

    • Ross

      Yes, I worry that dealing with AGW is not a core interest of Hiliary’s.

  • Larmion

    With the rapidly falling cost of solar power and readily available third party financing, you could replace ‘Hilarry’ with ‘a stuffed tomato’ and it would still be pretty accurate.

    From this article, it would seem the worst measure proposed by Republican contenders is an end to PTC (which solar firms are probably preparing for already). If that’s the worst they’re going to do, solar is home dry.

    • Keanwood

      I agree. While Republicans certainly won’t help solar/wind I don’t think they will go out of there way to oppose them either.

      But it would hurt the EPA’s efforts on carbon.

    • Nightshade

      “replace ‘Hilarry’ with ‘a stuffed tomato'”

      This…someone please do this!

      • Bob_Wallace

        Lindsey Graham might be your boy.

      • Vegy Tails

        Please don’t ruin tomatoes for me. How about turnip?

  • JamesWimberley

    “If Hilary Clinton is elected, as seems very likely, there may be 500,000,000 panels on US roofs by the end of 2020.” “May” is the word. Roy left out the bit “and if Democrats retake both houses of Congress”. Remember, under the walking antique that is the US Constitution it takes both houses of Congress to pass legislation, plus the consent of the President. The reason why Obama’s only three legislative achievements were ACA, Dodd-Frank and the stimulus is that he only had two years of a Congressional Democratic majority. That is counting Blue Dogs and Joe Lieberman, a bunch of preening and fickle allies to whom he had to make too many concessions. Without Congress, all a President can do is defend the EPA and kill Keystone, which Obama will do for her just before leaving office.

    HRC looks a shoo-in against the feeble or crazy GOP nominee pool. The real fight is for Congress.

  • Roger Lambert

    What is Hillary going to do about homeowner’s ability to pave their own highways by themselves? What is she going to do to help the average citizen build their own battleship?

    It’s NOT progress when our nation’s energy future is being paid for by individual property owners. This is something to lament, not cheer. Privatizing our national electrical utility system is highway robbery is sliding backwards to fascism.

    Half a billion panels, installed almost certainly on roofs which receive no where close to maximum insolation, and installed at the highest cost per watt of any solar. Not to mention that each rooftop system is iterative for peripheral electronics – a million roofs require a million voltage regulators, etc.

    Far better would be a half billion panels, sited in the American Southwest desert, owned and payed-for collectively by the citizens of the U.S., who would then reap the nearly cost-free electricity for many decades after capital costs were recouped.

    • JamesWimberley

      Where does HRC say the half-billion panels will be on roofs?

    • GCO

      The title of the article is wrong, making your rant equally baseless.

      Hillary Clinton calls for an increase of the US solar capacity to 140 GW [link to plan here]. Nowhere does she say it should be accomplished by scattering PV on millions of rooftops, only that it’d be equivalent to doing so.

      I see no reason why new capacity wouldn’t continue to come mostly from large-scale projects, like it has so far.

    • phineasjw

      Hillary aside (I don’t care to talk about her) — there are a number of good reasons to de-centralize the grid, least of which is national security, where one or two well placed “events” could instantly plunge major population centers instantly back to 1800s (no power, no internet, no phone service). De-centralization would also isolate large populations from downed power lines due to storms, etc.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Makes more sense to improve the grid so that we don’t end up with large “islands” when there’s a break in the system and everything past the break goes down.

        Feed essentially every consumption point from two directions.

        The Zephyr transmission project deals with some of this. In adddion to bringing wind electricity to SoCal it would connect the upper (Utah) end of the Intermountain Intertie with the upper end of the Pacific Intertie.

        That would make the two HVDC lines a “loop”. Break the loop at point A and both sides of point A could still receive power.

        Add more sensors, make the grid smarter, and we’ll know exactly where to go to fix the problem. Right crews can spend hours and hours searching for the break.

        • Martin

          Any place that has the most power use in the summer should have it mandatory to have solar installed.
          And places that have lots of wind in the winter, prairies, should have wind power installed.
          But those would be common sense solutions and since then do have most politicians have that (common sense) ?

    • Kenneth Ferland

      You really have no idea what fascism is if you think it equates to decentralization of resources/means of production. It may not be as cost effective as centralized generation but that is a completely different debate.

      • Roger Lambert

        read again: I said privatization of public assets.

        • Kenneth Ferland

          Are you talking about the grid? Are you under some misunderstanding that the grid in America is publicly owned, the grid is a utility company, privately owned as an LLC but heavily regulated as a natural monopoly.

          If we were talking about some Oligarch Billionaire owning the whole electric grid without regulation (similar to the situation in Eastern Europe after the fall of the USSR) then you might have a point.

          But the scenario you yourself described is one in which every home owner buys their own infrastructure. It is about as fascist as every home having it’s own water well. The public assets (current grid) would be become stranded and obsolete, not privately owned.

          Again you really seem to have a distorted view which seems to simply equate fascism/socialism with private/public their is a LOT more to it then that.

  • Jason hm

    Hillary needs Solar more than solar needs her the transition to renewibles is inevitable. If any politician really wants to facilitate a faster revolution then increase research into better/cheaper energy storage. A stable Lithium sulfur battery chemistry would be the final nail in fossil fuel energy coffin.

    • JamesWimberley

      A popular illusion, debunked here many times. Better battery storage is neither necessary nor sufficient for the energy transition. For large-scale storage (week-long weather lulls), the only option today is pumped hydro, a mature technology. In future, we may have P2G as well. The short-run stuff that batteries are good for is bells and whistles. Good batteries will speed up the transition by lowering costs, and help with the duck curve, but nobody is sitting around waiting for them.

      • Frank

        I agree with you. I also want to point out that Denmark is already at 40% wind power and not stopping. The US is nowhere near that, and a combination of wind and solar is easier to integrate than just one of them. By the time we do get there, I expect batteries to have progressed, and also demand management. The only place I know of where they really do have to work at it are on local residential circuits getting overloaded by rooftop solar in places like Hawaii where rooftop solar is much cheaper than grid power, or windy places that are grid constrained, but the grid has always had to be upgraded to accommodate new generation or load, so that to me is just normal change.

  • Marion Meads

    20 Panels per home, and for 500 million panels, that’s 25 million homes. We need to do more. The target should be 100 million homes or 2 billion solar panels.

    • JamesWimberley

      Roy implies the target is for roofs, but I understand it as a total for all types,which is much more realistic.

      I’d be surprised if the USA actually had 100 million distinct residential buildings. Think how many flats sit under a single high-rise roof in New York.

      • Matt

        Even just private homes is a lot!
        http://helixrecruiting.com/helix-recruiting-solar-david-anthony
        “the average home size in the United States was 2,700 square feet in 2009. If we assume average number of floors per building is two, the total residential roof space available is 172.4 billion square feet” I see average panel size ~17.5sqft so that give room for 9.85 Billion panels. Yes not all home roofs would work, but .5M panels is 0.005% of the est total home roof space. Think 10% or homes using 10% of roof that is 50x the .5M panel goal. So it is a very low goal, it isn’t much more than if I take linear of 2014 rate, well a little hard to see in that graph. Want to beat that!
        Do the real carbon fee/divided, but that will fly like a lead balloon (music history reference 🙂 ) so go with.
        1) Push to fix zoning rules, yes Pres can only make speaks for that and send out example zoning rules.
        2) Change PV tax credit to: (a) individual and non-profits is a direct cash payment. Make it 30% in 2017 and drop 1% each year for 30 years. (b) For corps rooftop and park lot covers, tax credit (30% 2017, drop by 1% year). (c) For others tax credit (30% same 1% drop but end in 15 years)
        Draw back is to be balanced then you need to do wind, geothermal, eff, etc.

        • jeffhre

          This is not the average size of a US home, but the average size of a home built in 2009, a statistic which has since been declining.

        • GloryBell

          Well I sure like your #2 proposal! If I were to get a 30% tax credit in 2017, I’d solar my house… sooner than that, if tax incentive was ready!

    • GCO

      140 GW solar by 2020 is only the first part of Clinton’s plan (and btw, unlike what this article wrongly states, she doesn’t suggest adding this capacity on rooftops).

      She also pledged to have enough renewables to power all US homes by 2026.

    • John Spencer

      Totally agree, and make them here in the US, not somewhere else. It would be amazing if Elon Musk or someone else would build a plant like the battery plant and pump out solar panels at a cost of 50 cents per watt, half of the current price. I would buy 30 myself. I have a south facing roof, with a pitch that is ideal. There are no trees in the way. My only hesitation is that I don’t plan on living in the house much longer.

  • Brian

    Hillary still supports Keystone pipeline, by refusing to speak out against it. She supports offshore oil drilling, so this may sound good, but she is simply trying to sound like a strong environmentalist, when she has supported natural gas fracking the Keystone and dirty oil drilling all along. Bernie Sanders is the best option to save our environment and he has stated he wants us to be 100% renewable energy. Hillary is a sellout to the dirty fossil fuel industry like Obama, who allows offshore oil drilling in the Artic.

    • vdiv

      No, no, they are just trying to have a “balanced” approach to fulfill our energy needs since the government’s role is not “choosing winners and losers”…

    • Agreed.

    • Bob_Wallace

      A US president has multiple responsibilities. He or she cannot allow the economy crash because the nation runs out of fuel. And she or he cannot leave us at the mercy of foreign countries for our energy, especially if those countries are likely to use fuel as a weapon.

      We will not get off oil by stopping to pump oil, ship oil or refine oil. The majority of US citizens will not allow that. Any president who tried to stop the use of oil would be quickly shown to the door and we see “Trump or Palin” in the White House.

      Bernie Sanders cannot stop the use of fossil fuels. Were Bernie to make it to the White House his actions would be restricted as are the actions of any other person who fills the office.

      Now, does Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama support the Keystone pipeline? I’d need to see proof. What I see is that the original route was not allowed and I see no approval for a new route. Did that happen last night?

      One does not support something by not speaking out against it. That can be an unwise political move. One can unnecessarily piss of some voters.

      Do remember, presidents do now have absolute power. And if one wants to do any good then they have to figure out how to get (and keep) the job.

      You want action on climate change?

      Then I would suggest you look for a candidate that can get elected and accept that whomever is elected will not accomplish everything you want. But better you get some of what you want than none of what you want and a load of stuff you don’t want.

    • Keanwood

      Bernie can not win. And since he is unelectable Hillary is the next best choice.

      Ideals are nice but winners are better.

      • just_jim

        The only reason Bernie cannot win is that he’s not going to win the primary. If he were politically savvy enough, and connected with voters enough to win the primary, I’d bet on him winning the General.

        • Keanwood

          Well, you wouldn’t be alone betting on him winning. But you would certainly be in the minority there.

          I do actually like Bernie. He is closer to my beliefs than Hillary. But when I donate money it will be to her campaign 🙁

  • jburt56

    That’s just about the 10% level.

    • berra

      More like 6%? 140 GW * 20% CF * 365 * 24 = 245 TWh. Divide by 4297 TWh and you have 5.7% in 2020. Not that impressive considering Italy and Greece were at 9% in 2014.

      Also, if the world is at 700 GW solar in 2020, then US at 140 GW is in parity with its share of global GDP. Also not very impressive. The US is obviously not aiming for leadership.

      • jburt56

        No. We’ll be probably around 1.5% by Q4 2016.

        • Bob_Wallace

          From 1.5% to 5.7% is approaching 1% a year.

          If we could convert 1% a year with solar and 1% a year with wind over the next 4-5 years we’d be chugging along at a decent “early stage” pace.

          In 2014 we were about 66% fossil fuels. To get to 0% fossil fuels by 2050 we’d need to transform 1.9% per year from FF to RE. (66%/35)

          As EVs come on line we’d need to pick up the solar/wind installation pace, but we’ve got a bit of time before EVs are likely to be a big draw.

          • jburt56

            It’s doable.

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