Solar Energy News

What's happening around the world in the solar industry and how it might affect you

Will CA utilities blow out the solar flame or feed it?

Could the utility war on solar be so catastrophically timed as to spur mass grid defection?

If California utilities had proposed slashing net metering benefits in half and tacking on an $18 monthly connection fee for solar customers three years ago, it might have stifled the growing industry. Instead, the proposal to the California regulators is timed to coincide with the release of the Tesla Powerwall.

Read more: Will CA utilities blow out the solar flame or feed it?

CA energy policy boosts solar even with rooftop exclusion


California’s new energy policy will ensure the sun keeps shining on the state’s solar industry even if it’s not likely to benefit the residential rooftop market.

The new energy policy passed by California legislators last week and waiting for a signature from Governor Jerry Brown, will require utilities to get 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and for building owners to double the efficiency of their properties by the same time.

The bill, which passed 51 to 26 in the Senate and 26 to 14 in the House, was not without controversy. The version that passed lacked some of the most aggressive measures included in the original proposal, such as increased fuel efficiency requirements for vehicles.

Solar advocates were disappointed that legislation won’t count rooftop solar toward utility goals. It means many of the incentives likely to emerge from utility companies following Brown’s signature won’t help to bolster that sector of the solar industry.

Of course, since well more than half of all solar installations in the state are already rooftop solar, excluding residential installations from the count also means utilities will have to invest more.

The legislation is expected to spur $8.6 billion in private investment in the state. From utility companies to real estate owners and developers, there will be a slew of new green economy jobs sprouting from required projects.  

While the mandates set goals, utility companies and building owners have the freedom to choose how they will meet those goals, which could spawn some creative and cost-saving solutions.

The benefit to the local new energy economy could exceed $10 billion, according to estimates from the California Solar Energy Industries Association, which heavily supported the initiative even though it excluded rooftop solar from the count.

“This is a huge win,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for California SEIA. The organization is still hopeful rooftop solar will get a piece of the pie. That remains to be seen when California regulators consider rules later this year about how residential and small business solar is sold back onto the grid.

Regardless, increased investment in clean energy and energy efficiency will create a culture even more conducive to solar installations than the already exists in the state with more installed solar capacity than any other.

Rooftop solar pushes solar capacity to new high

Rooftop solar pushed solar capacity to new high

Solar power surpassed 20 gigawatts of installed capacity in the United States during the second quarter of 2015 – thanks, in large part, to residential rooftop solar installations.

And that capacity could almost double again in the next year, according to a recently released report from the Solar Energy Industries Association. SEIA projects an additional 18 gigawatts of solar will be installed by the end of 2016. A huge portion of that will be small rooftop solar projects.

Read more: Rooftop solar pushes solar capacity to new high

Rooftop solar to surge with new financing options

For the first time ever, residential rooftop solar installations outpaced non-residential solar in the US in 2014. That’s thanks, in large part, to more and more creative financing options for homeowners who want to generate their own electricity, according to a report from GTM Research.

The solar industry surged in 2012 and 2013 thanks to the new third-party ownership model that allowed homeowners to install solar with no or very little money out of pocket. Companies like SolarCity and Sunrun spurred that sector of industry growth. In 2014, that model is still dominating the solar scene with 72 percent of all new rooftop solar projects in stalled in 2014 being third-party owned.

Read more: Rooftop solar to surge with new financing options

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