Good news peeks through
I don’t know about you, but I am sure glad to leave 2017 behind. Starting in January, solar immediately felt threatened by a new administration catering to coal and climate change deniers. Then, out of nowhere, bankrupt panel manufacturers threw the industry into a lengthy and testy trade case battle. Big-named residential solar installers abruptly exited the market, leaving customers confused. Then (then!) solar’s federal investment tax credit was put into jeopardy with the even more hotly debated GOP tax bill. Is there anything to look forward to in 2018?
I’ve found a few peeks of sunshine on the horizon. One we’re going to be hearing more about this year is the overlooked Midwest solar market. Solar Power World is Midwest-headquartered, so we’re excited to share good news from our backyard. SEIA recently formed a Midwest State Committee to expand advocacy efforts in the region, especially because Midwest states are predicted to install more than 1 GW of solar by 2021 (up from just 73 MW in 2015). Sunrun became the first national residential solar company to serve the Midwest when it entered Wisconsin last year. Rural electric cooperatives will lead community solar efforts in the area, pushing the Midwest into the competitive solar arena.
Speaking of community solar, GTM Research found that non-residential solar (which includes commercial rooftop installations and community solar) was the only market that saw growth in 2017. Twice as much community solar was installed last year than in 2016. With 150 community solar programs in place or in development across the country, community solar is expected to be a 500-MW annual market within the next two years.
Solar is also becoming more mainstream. No longer do we have to explain our industry at every family gathering, doing quick math on “how much a solar panel costs” for Uncle Bill. Coors Light showed off its 3.2-MW system and “22 million beers powered by the sun” in a 15-second ad first broadcast around last year’s Super Bowl. If that doesn’t get people talking about solar, maybe you’ll listen to the children. At the end of 2017, there were close to 6,000 K-12 schools in the United States that used solar energy, nearly double what was installed in 2014. Four million U.S. students attend schools with solar power and they see solar energy’s potential every day. One of the main reasons I’m a journalist is because my high school had a newspaper to work on. If students see solar on their schools, maybe they’ll consider installing solar on a future home or going into a career in renewables.
And what am I most looking forward to in 2018? Solar Power International heads to Anaheim in September. Avoiding Las Vegas this year will do my lungs good. See you there and at many other events across the country in 2018.