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The Weekly Sun: Solar’s Wild Growth

This week in solar, renewable and sustainable news

In this week’s solar news, solar growth is accelerating, EVs reach a tipping point, and Canadian tariffs dropped.

Solar is growing at a monumental pace in 2022 and beyond

As the price of solar panels and related equipment continues to drop, more and more industrial solar farms move from the drawing board to glass-and-mortar reality. That means the U.S. will install more new solar energy capacity than new wind capacity for the first time in 2022. In its quarterly Short-Term Energy Outlook report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that the U.S. will add 17 gigawatts of solar capacity in 2022.

Let’s pause and think about that number. 17 gigawatts. One gigawatt can power 750,000 homes, so by the end of 2022, solar energy will power nearly 13 million more homes than it did in 2021.

Wind, meanwhile, comes in with an additional six gigawatts of capacity in 2022, or 4.5 million homes. The momentum for wind installations is stalling in 2022 as the federal production tax credit will expire, but massive growth in offshore wind farms is expected in the coming years. The Biden administration has set a goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore capacity by 2030 and has implemented the policy to make it happen.

Milestone after milestone

Renewable energy is where it’s at now and in the foreseeable future. Wind and solar will account for 15% of U.S. capacity this year, up from 11% in 2021. And that revolution isn’t just happening in the U.S. Energy giant BP reported last week that renewables are now 13% of global power generation, passing nuclear fission to become the fourth largest power source in the world.

With the Ukrainian conflict driving up natural gas and electricity prices, renewable energy helps countries advance toward energy independence even in the face of uncertainty in the global marketplace. And with costs dropping, the growth in renewable energy is not just about doing the smart thing for the environment. It is now the fiscally responsible choice. Even as the price of a kilowatt of solar power continues to drop yearly, dependence on fossil fuels is behind a projected 5.3% jump in the cost of electricity nationwide.

The jaw-dropping growth in renewable energy is not likely to slow, either. Earlier this year, BloombergNEF projected that the U.S. would add 204 gigawatts of utility-scale solar by 2030. In the same time, small-scale installations such as rooftop/home systems will account for a whopping 83 gigawatts more. Wind will continue to sail with a strong tailwind and add another 115 gigawatts over that same period.

Sources: Bloomberg, Bloomberg, NREL, BP

Battery capacity tripled in 2021

solar battery storage newsWith solar and wind power generation skyrocketing, it’s not surprising to see battery installations joining the party. The intermittent nature of those renewables makes energy storage an essential complement to all those shining solar panels. Right on cue, the U.S. added 3.2 gigawatts of battery storage in 2021, most of it in commercial facilities. Over 90% of new installations in 2021 were collocated with solar generation.

Even when the batteries aren’t directly complementing solar, their use cases are increasing in the industry. One trending practice is arbitrage, when batteries charge from the grid during cheap, off-peak hours, and the stored energy is sold back at a premium during peak hours.

Source: P.V. Magazine

EVs reach a tipping point

EV charging stationEveryone knows an early adopter. This person stood in line for the first iPhone. They had solar on their roof before anyone else. They drive a car powered by electricity. But not all gadgets stick around. That person probably also had a Palm Pilot and Google Glass.

Many things have to go right for many years’ worth of technological innovation to turn into an overnight success. And when they all line up, that overnight success comes like a tidal wave.

A recent Bloomberg analysis indicated that we reached that tipping point recently with electric vehicles when EV sales accounted for five percent of all new car sales.

The Bloomberg analyst argues that successful adoption of new technologies all follow the same S-shaped curve. In all sixteen countries that have reached the magic threshold of five percent EV sales, that curve bent dramatically toward mass adoption. In effect, it’s when EVs go from fringe/early-adopter phase to mainstream. After that point, manufacturers respond by retooling factories, charging stations become more commonplace, and hesitant consumers become more comfortable with the technology.

Source: Bloomberg

Tariffs on Canadian panels dropped

two men lifting a solar panel

Canadian manufacturers got caught in the crossfire when Donald Trump imposed sweeping tariffs on Asian solar panels in 2018. Now, Ottawa and Washington agreed to lift the tariffs after Canada disputed them in front of an international trade dispute panel. The resolution follows the Biden Administration lifting Asian tariffs for 24 months. With manufacturing facilities in both Canada and the U.S., popular solar panel manufacturer Silfab is expected to benefit from the agreement.

Sources: Reuters, Solar Power World

All eyes are on Texas

electrical power generating station

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Texas’ power grid may lack the capacity to meet consumer demand during its current heat wave. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) sent a request to consumers throughout Texas to reduce usage during peak hours. The temperature is currently hitting triple digits in much of the state.

The recently appointed head of ERCOT told the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday that those conservation notices are now sent to avoid crises instead of mitigating them.

“When we call for it, I want Texans to understand: That’s not because we’re going into rolling outages. That’s because we want to stay far enough away from a rolling outage scenario that we’re asking for it early,” Jones told Shelby Webb at the paper. “We used to stand right at the edge of the cliff before calling one. Now we’re 10 feet back.”

Sources: ERCOT, Houston Chronicle

The Weekly Sunshine Song

To call Nina Simone a jazz artist is to miss the breadth and depth of her talent. She studied at Juilliard and considered J.S. Bach one of her most important influences. The careful optimism of her version of this Beatles’ classic is made even more poignant by the civil rights work that she was so deeply involved in at the time.

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