By: Katie O’Brien
Solar in the United States is booming! According to the most recent Solar Market Insight Report by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), there are more than 58 Gigawatts (GW) of solar currently installed in the US. That’s enough to power over 11 million American homes! The amount of solar installed in the US generates enough power to offset more than 74 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to taking 15.8 million vehicles off the road or planting 1.9 billion trees.
Solar is expected to keep growing in coming years…total installed capacity is expected to double by 2023. One of the fastest growing segments in the solar industry is community solar. Community solar is a large solar project shared by multiple community subscribers. These subscribers receive credits on their electricity bill for their portion of the power produced. This allows homeowners, renters, businesses and others who may not have the means or may not have the appropriate roof positioning/tree cover for their own systems. Community solar is also helping assist residents in low income communities. The in Fort Collins, CO is the largest low-income community solar project in the US. The 1.95 megawatt (MW) solar farm will directly benefit low income households, affordable housing providers and non profit organizations located in the utility’s service territory. The project is part of a Colorado state initiative to show the benefits of low income solar for utilities for their highest need customers. Community solar allows more people to share in the economic and environmental benefits of solar.
Solar is not just good for the environment, it’s great for the economy, especially compared to other forms of electricity generation. More than 250,000 Americans are employed in the US solar industry. In fact, solar employees more people than the gas, coal and oil industries combined. With installations expected to boom, more employees will be needed to assist in installation. The solar industry has also accounted for over $159.5 billion in investment into the economy, with over $17 billion alone in 2017. The cost of solar has also been recently found to be the same or cheaper than other forms of generation. With such low costs, high jobs numbers, and investment, it’s hard to understand why there are still so many solar opposers out there.
The solar industry is also refereed to as the “solar coaster”. With most regulation being done at the state level, the benefits of solar can vary immensely from state to state depending on guidelines set by regulators. Florida is known as the sunshine and ranks as one of the top states in the country for solar potential, yet they fall 12th in total installed capacity. This is mostly due to poor solar policy, driven in part by the lobbying efforts of greedy, monopolistic utilities. With solar policy now changing in the state, Florida is expected to rank 2nd in the country growth over the next 5 years, with over 5.1 MW forecasted to be installed. Florida will truly be the sunshine state in so many ways!
Continued growth in solar will help replace other forms of generation that can be not only costly, but their emissions deadly. To learn more about the solar industry visit www.seia.org
By Gregory Kolen II. Environmental justice is an issue that affects everyone, but those who bear the brunt of it are often the most vulnerable