I have always been interested in solar power-clean, effective, and free generally speaking. But I recently ran across an article from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) that I thought brought out some very interesting facts about the direction of solar energy.
The facts and figures come from the Solar Market Insight published by the SEIA for the 4th quarter of 2015.
First: the U.S. installed 7,260 MWdc of solar PV in 2015, the largest annual total ever and 16% above 2014.
Second: For the first time ever, solar beat out natural gas capacity additions, with solar supplying 29.4% of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the U.S. in 2015.
These two facts come as no real surprise as it has been well known that interest in solar has grown phenomenally over the past decade. But when I started looking at breakdowns of the installations, I was surprised. In particular, the following two graphics caught my eye
Residential growth (dark blue) seems to be doubling about every two years, which is no real shock to me. The shock to me was the amount of solar PV installations that were for the utilities, growing at a rate double that of residential installations. The below graph makes it a little easier to see.
Once I started to think about it, it really made sense. Solar is clean, renewable energy, which is essentially free after the initial cost of installation. So after the utilities initial outlay of immense cash, they can begin to recover investment immediately without having to make further purchases, such as with coal and natural gas.
Although the utilities may have the buying power to install these huge systems, that is not true of most commercial systems. They cannot afford the high initial cost even with the short term recapture of investment, usually 7-10 years.
Residential on the other hand has options that completely remove the drawback of an expensive installation. We just had our system installed, although a small system comparatively, but it cost us absolutely nothing to install and the maintenance and repair of the system is taken care of for the next twenty years, which means I don’t have to lay out even a dime to keep the system maintained to optimum efficiency. I will be writing more about our personal system in another post later.
I think that the utilities know the future of harnessing free energy and our taking advantage now. They understand that in generations to come the decisions they make now will have a huge impact on not only their bottom line, but the environment as well.
Whether or not one is a global warming believer, getting clean, renewable energy that is environmentally friendly just makes good sense. I am glad to see that these decisions are being made by the major utilities for future generations.