As I have mentioned, the Solar Power International show a few weeks ago was a beehive of activity: 27,000 people busily learning, networking, excitedly establishing new business connections. As Americans, we need to be proud of this industry. Here are a few data points to keep in mind.
Growth. In the US, we put on about a gigawatt of solar in the last 12 months. This, of course, is small in comparison to other forms of energy, but it’s the fastest growing source of energy in the US, predicted to grow to 10 gigawatts by 2015.
What’s Driving It. While this growth is driven partially by government incentives like the Treasury grant, the incredible lack of clarity of support for solar at the federal level scares investors away like so many rabbits. In large measure, the growth is fueled by ever-lowering costs, bringing solar ever closer to “grid-parity,” i.e., costs equal to coal, etc. And while consumers add more solar on their roofs, utilities are starting to bring on huge solar fields, realizing that the risk that would have been associated with coal (pollution) and nuclear (you name it) are simply not there with solar.
Jobs. The solar industry employs almost 100,000 Americans across all fifty states, and is projected to support over half a million American jobs by 2016. In many cases, these are folks who have been displaced from traditional industries, e.g., housing, in the continuing financial meltdown. Every day, new opportunities are created in manufacturing, engineering, installation, and sales.
Perhaps one day our elected leaders will get on board.