January 2017 issue: Meeting new rapid shutdown requirements

In this issue:

Cranberry bogs and solar power make a surprisingly good couple

With Tesla’s marketing support, it’s a brand new year for the solar roof

A new system quickly installs bifacial modules on sloped roofs

Solar will remain strong in 2017

With the industry expected install more solar in 2016 (10 GW) than in any previous year, and with a clear path to 2022 under our feet—thanks to an extended ITC—it’s a great time to be in solar.

I say this with confidence, despite concern that renewable energy development won’t prosper—and may even come to a halt—under the new presidency. For every commentary igniting panic over possible solar and wind policy repeals, I’ve read another instilling faith in the strength of both markets and their bipartisan support.

Having heard out both opinions, I tend to side with the latter. True, the new administration could slash renewable energy tax credits, revoke programs and ignore recommendations, guidance and goals of the previous office. This would certainly hurt the pace of renewable development but definitely not destroy it. Perhaps eight years ago the absence of a federal focus on renewables could have devastated solar energy growth. But if it happened today, the market will survive—we’re so established that we could take the hit.

While we still have educating to do, solar is no longer such a blue versus red issue. I remember former SEIA President Rhone Resch touting, “We’re not an issue, we’re an industry.” Based on the number of representatives from both parties I see supporting renewables, this idea is catching on. Studies, such as those from the Pew Research Center, confirm that most Republicans and Democrats favor expanding renewables. Renewable development does help combat climate change, but politicians and citizens alike are also seeing it create energy independence, dependable jobs and additional electricity for our increasing population.

Yet, we can’t be blind to industry challenges. Cheap PPAs in the utility market are making it more difficult to be profitable. Investorowned utilities in California are set with enough renewables to fulfill RPS obligations through the next few years. It’s clear the industry needs to find ways to reignite procurement.

Offsite commercial solar—community solar, virtual NEM and offsite wholesale projects—is expected to grow fourfold over 2015, according to GTM Research, but onsite commercial development is still challenging. Solar may be booming, but it’s getting more difficult and expensive to find residential solar leads. This issue’s special business section provides insight into ways to overcome these challenges.

Barry Cinnamon of Cinnamon Solar gave the industry a “pep talk” in a recent blog. To keep the momentum around solar going, Cinnamon said we need to do “more of what our industry has been doing for the past two decades. We need to continue to reduce costs, we need to create more domestic jobs, and we need to do a much better job educating the ‘red’ states and new policymakers about the benefits of solar.”

If you watched Michelle Obama’s December television interview with Oprah Winfrey, you may have caught her overarching theme of “hope.” She stressed the importance of thinking positively and supporting the new administration, saying, “What else do you have if you don’t have hope?… The words that we say moving forward—all of us—it matters, which is one of the reasons Barack and I are so supportive of this transition, because no matter how we felt going into it, it is important for the health of this nation that we support the commander-in-chief…So we are going to be there for the next president and do whatever we have to do to make sure that he is successful, because if he succeeds we all succeed.”

I think that if we, as an industry, do our best to follow her lead, solar will succeed too.

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