Backyard Talk

Solar in the US is Booming!

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

Backyard Talk

Who Owns the Sun?

Over the past 5 years rooftop installation of solar panels have seen explosive growth, perhaps as much as 900 percent, over the past six years according to an article in the New York Times. The U.S. solar market had its biggest year ever in 2016, nearly doubling its previous record and adding more electric generating capacity than any other source of energy for the first time ever. “It would be hard to overstate how impressive 2016 was for the solar industry,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Prices dropped to all-time lows, installations expanded in states across the country and job numbers soared. The bottom line is that more people are benefiting from solar now than at any point in the past, and while the market is changing, the broader trend over the next five years is going in one direction – and that’s up.”
Despite this unprecedented growth, new residential installations in 2017 has hit a snag. According to Forbes magazine, rooftop installations in the residential market could slow to as little as 9% this year, down from 16% in 2016, compared to an average growth of 63% over the three preceding years.
Several factors are cited for this decline including saturated markets like California, financial troubles for several top solar panel manufacturers, and lower energy costs primarily due to fracking. Another factor however is a well-funded highly orchestrated lobbying campaign by traditional utilities. According to Forbes magazine, utility companies are pushing back against residential solar in multiple states, citing the higher effective costs of catering to customers with residential installations. In states such as Nevada, residential and small-scale commercial solar users face higher electricity rates, along with reductions in the credits they receive for sending their unused solar generated electricity back to the grid, a practice known as “net metering.” The utilities are growing increasingly uncomfortable with homeowners generating their own energy and even making a profit by selling their unused energy back to the grid.
An outrageous example of how this scenario is playing out is occurring in North Carolina where Duke Energy used its power and influence in the state to attack the green energy efforts of a small environmental advocacy group to build solar projects for non-profits. Just this month, the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld a $60,000 fine levied against NC WARN of Durham for installing solar panels on the roof of the Faith Community Church in Greensboro, NC and selling the energy to the church. Duke Energy who has a monopoly of the energy use in the state (as well as several other southern states), asked the court to make an example of NC WARN and to heavily penalize them for illegally selling solar electricity. North Carolina is one of only four states where third party sales of energy is thought to be disallowed.
Duke’s position is particularly outrageous because NC WARN had installed the solar panels on the roof of the church as a test case to clarify state policy on third party sales that allow solar companies to sell power directly to customers from systems on those customers’ property. NC WARN and the church’s Rev. Nelson Johnson very publicly announced their reason for installing the solar panels which was also accompanied by a legal request for a declaratory ruling by the NC Utilities Commission.
NC WARN is strongly considering an appeal to the NC Supreme Court. They have no intention to give up their efforts to break Duke Energy’s longstanding monopoly on electricity sales in the state. Energy companies like Duke Energy do not own the sun. They cannot dictate who profits and who does not from taping the sun’s energy to generate electricity. What NC WARN and multiple other nonprofits and solar companies are doing is what we need to do to safely and cleanly generate electricity and create jobs while doing it. Despite the efforts of the utilities to control the sun, the future for solar continues to appear quite bright.

Backyard Talk

Ohio Govenor Kills Green Energy & NYS Invests

It was only a short while ago when the Ohio Legislature essential killed all efforts to bring clean green energy and energy use reduction to the state. Ohio Gov. John Kasich dashed the hopes of environmentalists, leading manufacturers and renewable-energy businesses in June when he signed a bill shelving requirements for utilities to ramp up the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Kasich welcomes fracking and other nasty industrial processes to his state while other states are taking a more proactive and protective direction.

Recently, New York Governor Cuomo announced a ban on fracking in NY sighting the many unknown health issues that  have not been addressed and the potential impacts are too great to allow fracking to proceed in the state at this time.

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said that in other states where fracking is already happening, he found that state health commissioners “weren’t even at the table” when decisions about the process were made.

Zucker add “I cannot support high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” also noting that he would not live in a community that allows fracking and would not want his children to play in the soil in such a place.

We give the Governor of NY an A+ for his due diligence in protecting the citizens of NY and the Governor of Ohio a big fat red letter F for his lack of caring or concern for the residents of his state.

This January 2015 NYS Governor began pushing for investments in clean green energy.