The solar industry had a good year in 2013 and there’s every indication that the momentum will carry photovoltaic technology through 2014.
At the start of 2014, Clean Energy Authority will take a look back at some of the most important stories and technological announcements from 2013 and look ahead at how the industry is likely to fare in 2014.
The solar industry nosedived in 2011. Solar panel manufacturers overproduced and the massive global oversupply drove prices so low that solar companies folded and went out of business so often it stopped making headlines. The next year marked the slow start of what would become a robust recovery.
And 2013 saw solar stock prices surge with global solar module supply plummeting, demand skyrocketing and companies like SunPower selling out of product and planning to construct new manufacturing facilities.
Solar becoming more affordable
Lux Research, GTM Research and several other analysis firms reported that solar energy s expected to reach grid parity within the decade and that solar pane prices will continue their dramatic price decline. GTM Research reported that solar panels will reach a record low cost of 36 cents per watt by 2017.
Creative financing and direct investment
The US solar industry has been bolstered by solar leasing companies like SolarCity, Sunrun and Sungevity that allow homeowners to buy the power their rooftop solar panels produce at a discount on local utility rates without any upfront expense.
While that model took off and made big headlines in 2011 and 2012, 2013 saw some new innovation in financing that could make solar even more accessible.
Mosaic expanded its solar crowdfunding model beyond simple Kickstarter fundraising to allow investors to collect returns on money they offer up to solar developers. Mosaic allows regular people to invest as little as $25 in certain projects in certain states and accredited investors to gain on direct solar investments anywhere.
SolarCity entered the bond market in 2013 and got more than $54 million in financing for its third-party rooftop solar installations by allowing investors to directly invest in them by buying bonds.
Less than a year ago, The Alliance for Solar Choice launched, saying it would act as a lobbying arm and policy advocate for the solar industry. Over the year, several conflicts with utilities aiming to reduce net metering benefits erupted around the country. None generated more headlines than the one in Arizona. Arizona Public Services wanted to raise fees on solar customers by $50 to $100 a month. TASC declared the $5 a month increase approved by the Arizona Corporations Commission in November a victory for the solar industry.
TASC leaders say they predict 2014 will be filled with utility battles with other states, starting with Colorado.
Advances in battery technology and concern for grid independence and energy storage in the wake of Super Storm Sandy that swept the East Coast in late 2012 has given rise to more companies offering combined storage and solar PV systems. Additionally, Japan announced it would install the world’s largest energy storage system with a capacity of about 60 megawatt hours.
The solar industry is heading into 2014 strong. Demand is high and seemingly growing globally. Solar panels are becoming increasingly efficient as prices drop and communities work to reduce soft costs. Solar stock prices are high and industry growth is predicted to continue.