America Behind in Widespread Solar Adoption

America Behind in Widespread Solar Adoption

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America has a long way to catch up to Europe in terms of increasing our Solar power capacity. Last year Britain and Germany broke personal records. Germany generated over half its electricity demand from solar for the first time ever on June 9, 2014, and the UK has nearly doubled its 2013 peak solar power output at the solstice weekend in 2014.

France, Italy, Denmark and other countries are also believed to have generated record amounts in June of 2014. According to UK trade body the Solar Trade Association (STA), the total UK installed solar capacity generated from homes, buildings and solar farms is now about 4.7 Gigawatts compared to 2.7 Gigawatts in July last year.  There is no downside to taking advantage of this renewable resource.

That’s not to say America hasn’t started to show some promise in the solar arena. The U.S. installed 1,354 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the third quarter of 2014 to total 16.1 gigawatts (GW) of installed PV capacity, with another 1.4 GW of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity, which is enough to power 3.5 million homes.

The third quarter of 2014 was the second largest quarter in history for solar growth in America, and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Green Tech Media (GTM) Research predict another record-breaking year for 2015, with total installed capacity reaching three times the size of the market just three years ago.

“Britain has virtually doubled its capacity in the last year (2014), with 80,000 more installations, including several thousand larger scale commercial ones,” said Ray Noble, a consultant at the UK National Solar Centre.

“There are now 530,000 installations in the UK, of which 510,000 are domestic small scale ones,” said Noble.

“We think that this is likely to double again within a year. There is nothing to stop it getting to 30-40% of UK electricity at this time of year,” he said.

The figures were welcomed by UK energy minister Greg Barker, “Solar not only benefits the environment, it will see British job creation and deliver the clean and reliable energy supplies that the country needs at the lowest possible cost to consumers.”

Germany, with 1.4m PV systems, generated a peak of 23.1 GW hours at lunchtime on Monday, June 9 , equivalent to 50.6% of its total electricity need. According to government development agency Germany trade and invest (GTAI), solar power grew 34% in the first five months of 2014 compared to last year.

Europe added 10.9GW of PV capacity in 2013, said the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (Epia), bringing the total installed capacity to over 81GW on the continent.
“This represents a 16% increase compared to the year before and about 59% of the world’s cumulative photovoltaic capacity,” said a spokesman. “2013 was a record year for the UK, with 1.5GW installed last year. Germany installed 3.3GW, Italy 1.4GW, Romania 1.1GW and Greece 1.04GW.”

But new figures from the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute suggest Europe is no longer the biggest market for solar power. In 2013, says the EPI report, China added “at least” 11.3GW and is now the second largest generator of solar power after Germany, and the US added some 4.8GW, increasing its total capacity by 65% to 12GW.

“PV remains the most rapidly-growing energy technology by a wide margin. Indeed, global PV installations for 2014 should reach at least 40,000 megawatts, expanding world PV capacity by another 30 percent,” says author J Matthew Roney, a staff researcher for EPI.

Other countries, like Canada added 440 megawatts to reach 1.2GW in 2013,  also Mexico nearly doubled its PV capacity to 100MW and is expected to reach 240MW by the end of 2014 and Japan, spurred by the closure of nuclear power plants following Fukushima has more than doubled its capacity by adding 6.9GW in 2013.

America has shown a lot of progress though. California now has more than 240,000 small-scale solar installations on commercial and residential roofs across the state that amount to more than 2,200 MW of generation capacity and 25 new large-scale solar projects including the largest solar plant in the world located in the Mojave desert 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas.   There’s a lot of room to improve though and it just seems to make sense that every new house should have solar panels on the roof the same way as every new house has a bathroom.

According to the European Photovoltaic Industry Report, solar power is expected to grow 20% a year over the next few years.

In conclusion, not only is Solar Power good for the environment and reduces our dependency on foreign oil, but it is a tremendous area of potential job growth and is an industry that America needs to be leading in and not following.

Opinions expressed herein are solely the author’s and not necessarily the opinions of Wholesale Solar.

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