2012 has been a bumper year for utility scale (over 10MW installations) solar power in many states across the USA with total installed capacity of new solar power installations over 10MW totaling 3GW of capacity in a year for the first time. This was up from 2.3GW of new utility scale solar power installations in 2011. The total installed utility scale solar power in the USA is now 8.5GW, or a 35.6% growth, according to a recent PV TECH article. This figure, while impressive and growing rapidly still leaves the US trailing the world leader, Germany by a considerable distance. Germany already has 31.62GW of solar power installed as of October 2012 which is 3% of their generating capacity and they expect to reach 25% solar powered electricity generation by 2050.
The rapidly declining costs of solar power panels from the rapid acceleration of solar projects around the world is driving this trend along with the abundance of solar power from the sun and the rapid realization that the sooner we move to solar power, the sooner we can start to reduce our carbon emissions and start down the road towards a more sustainable future.
Sadly, the US is still populated with dinosaurs such as Dominion Electric Power who are quoting 2009 figures for the amount of solar power as a percentage of total power generation as a reason to do absolutely the minimum to get involved and onto the cutting edge of solar development, instead they are looking at developing nuclear as an alternative to coal. Look closely at their connection to coal in West Virginia and that dinosaur approach will become perfectly explainable. This is most likely due to a case of old math clouding their judgement. I.E. the most cost effective way to provide short term shareholder value is to build nuclear, versus the most enlightened way to help the society they serve, their customers, become more sustainable would be to develop solar. In the state of Virginia, one of the states in which they operate, there is not even a solar incentive. I wonder why not?
This example however is definitely not the only one. Across the country you will see other examples of the monopoly state providers lagging way behind the leaders in solar generation. This phenomenon is true of all disruptive technologies and there is no reason to think it will work any other way for solar.
Take a look at the top 10 solar electricity providers to get some insight into who the innovators are in this area. So far, Californian companies are out in the lead and this has a lot to do with the states support to push their utilities in this direction. Is this yet another case of our elected representatives serving big business interests ahead of the voting public. I think so.
The good news is in the rapid and continued development of home solar power over the next few years. The following table shows how the growth of home solar is projected to continue to grow over the next 4 years at least.
Look at the growth of solar power in Germany though as a better indicator of how this growth could go in the USA as well. Germany did not really start to accelerate its solar power growth until 2003 when the government started to incentivize the nation to produce solar power. See the Wiki Solar Power in Germany article for more information on German Solar power generation capacity.
In 2003 the cost of solar power panels was a lot more than today and not anywhere near grid parity. Therefore the government incentives were necessary to stimulate the market. Today Solar is closing in on grid parity rapidly and is already attracting the attention of the investment community. As this trend accelerates, you can expect to see the growth of solar accelerate as well and if the dinosaur electricity companies don’t follow the trend, they will simply be replaced as is already starting to happen by nimbler, more forward thinking companies. Judging by Germany’s development, we are in for a rapid acceleration of solar power generation capacity in the next few years.
The gradual conversion of our industrial age carbon powered electricity system is now underway in the USA and gathering speed. The signs from other developed nations, especially Germany are clear, the trend is about to accelerate. Secondly, it is no longer necessary to operate under the old system of being held hostage to the whims of corporate investors. Install your own solar power system in the form of a roof mounted solar array and you will get rid of the constant increases in electricity expected to be in the range of 8-10% a year for the foreseeable future needed to keep corporate profits for institutional investors growing.
Home solar is the smart solution to your power needs in the future.