“SOS” is Rayton Solar’s monthly coverage of all U.S. solar activity. SOS is an acronym for ‘State of Solar’, and we think the name is fitting. The United States’ economic and environmental survival is wholly dependant on the shift toward electricity generated from clean energy. This is our attempt to provide our own commentary regarding the state of solar in the U.S. and shed light on the trends, technologies, and policies inching us closer to a future built on renewable energy led by solar.
Monday, May 7– California makes its move to require home solar panels
California, historically a champion of renewable energy, has another solar energy “first”. On May 9th, CA was set to become the first state to have a solar panel requirement, per a mandate that would apply to all houses, condos and apartment buildings up to three stories tall that obtain building permits after Jan. 1, 2020. California currently boasts 19.8 gigawatts of solar PV capacity, making it the undisputed leader in solar capacity (over 2nd-ranked North Carolina). As it stands, about 15 to 20 percent of new single-family homes in California currently include solar installations.
What does this mean for solar capacity in the U.S?
This is another step in the right direction for solar to make up a larger portion of the electricity mix, and not having to choose between clean and affordable energy. Residential buildings in the U.S. are responsible for slightly more than 1/9th of the total U.S. CO2 emissions. California, via its 2019 Building Energy Code, is trying to make that 1/9th disappear with a combination of solar films on glass, smartly sized and other efficiently designed solutions and new technologies that will lower energy storage requirements. The state’s three investor-owned utilities are already well ahead of schedule on their renewable energy procurement plans and on track to meet the state’s 33 percent mandate for 2020. At the same time, community-choice aggregators (CCAs) are investing in additional solar installations. All in all, this will mean more business for panel makers and installers, which will eventually reduce the costs of panels.
Rayton Solar's Take: Andrew Yakub
“Solar power is more affordable and accessible in the United States than ever before. Having state and local government backing and long-term procurement plans for renewable resources is critical if we want to continue the momentum.”
May 14 – 3 Reasons for US Solar Optimism Following January’s Solar Tariffs
Now several months removed from the Trump administration January solar tariff announcement, solar installers still have reason for optimism for the future of solar in the US:
1. Renewable energy regulations at local and state levels
There are 29 states with mandates requiring that utilities procure a certain percentage of their power generation from renewable energy, including solar energy. At the federal level, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is also further proof that momentum for US solar energy will continue. The investment tax credit (ITC), also known as the federal solar tax credit, allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. The ITC applies to both residential and commercial systems, and there is no cap on its value. The average EnergySage Solar Marketplace shopper saves nearly $9,000 on the cost of going solar as a result of the ITC.
2. FERC supports cleaner energy sources
A recent rejection by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of the White House’s plan to force utilities to buy more coal and nuclear power demonstrates support for a future built on sustainable energy sources. It also affirms that renewable energy is no longer rooted in politics, but rather an economically viable alternative to fossil fuels.
3. Solar technology may offset future equipment cost from tariffs
Technology that reduces the cost of high-efficiency solar cell materials and solar modules will allow us to overcome the rising cost of solar equipment due to the tariffs. Prices for inverters, trackers, and labor costs are expected to dip. Collectively, this will allow the solar he industry top overcome these economic hurdles much the same as it has in the past.
May 17– Solar Outperforms Coal in US jobs growth
According to a report Wednesday from the Energy Futures Initiative and Bloomberg, U.S. solar is experiencing steady growth. Solar employed 2x as many workers than the coal industry in 2017, according to a new report from Bloomberg. Energy Futures Initiative, the Washington-based nonprofit headed by former U.S. Energy Secretary, shared statistics that show solar produces about 1.9 percent of U.S. electricity and is deepening its reach in the Southeast. Arguably more important 7.7% more natural gas jobs exist over solar, but 80 percent of those jobs are related to producing the fuel rather than using it to generate electricity.
Rayton Solar's Take: Dr. Mingguo Lui
“With the right subsidies in place, it’s not unlikely that we’ll start to see this number grow even further. The nation’s power companies are changing policies to meet the steady demand for renewable energy.”
May 23 – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examines the effect of a higher share of wind and solar
How do solar and wind influence energy prices? In a recent study, Impacts of High Variable Renewable Energy Futures on Wholesale Electricity Prices, and on Electric-Sector Decision Making, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examines what effect a higher share of wind and solar will have on this important question. Since power plants last for decades, policymakers and investors must think of ways to ensure that an investment in solar and renewable energy will actually pay off in the future. The study digs deeper into how solar and wind will collectively lower prices in the energy sector, but also how these altered price patterns will affect the other demand- and supply-side energy sector decisions, bringing new complexities for operating the grid. This research serves as a reminder that making the electricity grid cleaner with renewable energy is an evolving process that requires significant changes to how the power grid is currently run, especially if we want to experience a similar surge in US solar capacity on the scale of other global leaders in clean energy.
Rayton Solar's Take: Dr. Jeff McKay