Last week among other news in solar the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) released any report showing that solar is going up across the U.S. What’s also interesting is more solar news is coming from states other than the bigger markets like California and others in the U.S. Southwest. Solar’s also taking off in new directions like creating more sanitary, solar-powered toilets, which could help increase sanitation in developing countries.
IREC’s 2011 Solar Market Trends Report found that the U.S. saw 1.8 gigawatts of grid-connected solar power, consisting of 64,000 new solar installations across the U.S. The growth was most dramatic among utilities, which grew 145 percent and non-residential systems, which grew 132 percent over 2010. The annual report also found that residential solar grew at a rate of 24 percent. And it anticipates that solar installations will grow at an even faster pace in 2012.
While there’s a host of installations going on at anytime in the U.S. and around the world, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is looking at using solar for another, practical and perhaps world-changing application, the solar toilet. As part of its “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” the foundation is awarding a number of teams—among them the University of Colorado at Boulder, which received a $780,000 grant to develop a prototype solar-powered toilet. The toilets are being designed to process human waste in a way that sterilizes waste so it’s not contaminated with diseases, parasites or bacteria.
Meanwhile New York is increasing its solar incentives even as other of its programs are drying up. To help keep solar marching forward in the Empire State, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) last Friday signed into law three tax credit bills as part of the NY-Sun Initiative. Among other things, the new laws give tax credits to homeowners with leases or power-purchase agreements, tax credits to businesses and a special tax break for cities. The laws are designed to increase adoption of solar and jobs in the industry.
At the same time some utilities are already reaching an important milestone—fulfilling their current net metering requirements. For instance Central Hudson Gas & Electric recently reached its 1 percent net-metering cap for solar. However, the utility said it would continue to accept applications while the state’s utility commission determines whether or not it should raise the level. While the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA) applauded the efforts it also said that what’s really needed is long-term solar incentive strategies.
Elsewhere San Antonio’s CPS Energy recently completed its third 10 megawatt installation with SunEdison. The projects are part of CPS Energy’s New Energy Economy project, which includes the installation of 400 megawatts of photovoltaics, which will be manufactured at an OCI plant which will be built in San Antonio. In all, CPS New Energy Economy projects aims to add 1,500 MWs of renewable energy installed by 2020.
While Georgia isn’t known as a big state for solar, it’s biggest utility, Georgia Power is starting to install solar and making it easier for others to go solar. The utility is seeking to install 50 megawatts of solar by 2015. But the utility, even though it’s not required to incentivize more residential solar (it does have to allow net-metering), has created a new Web channel designed to educate customers about the opportunity for solar, including what their potential is for solar and also information about local installers.
To help with the spread of solar internationally, the U.S. Export-Import Bank announced that it would support up to $2 billion of renewable energy projects, including solar projects in South Africa. And a lot of it is likely to be solar. Since the country’s Integrated Resource Plan and its South African Renewable Initiative calls for 4 gigawatts of solar power.