Robust federal clean energy policy has laid the groundwork for a decade of explosive growth for the solar and storage industries. A 10-year extension of the investment tax credit, new incentives for domestic solar product manufacturing and many other provisions will help solar and storage meet the increasing demand for home-grown, clean energy.
The industry has already seen U.S. manufacturing expansion and groundbreaking announcements directly triggered by the Inflation Reduction Act at the end of 2022, with developers eager to collect the 10% ITC adder for sourcing domestic content. From mounting companies like Nextracker, with an expanding manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania, to panel makers like Heliene, with expansion plans at a Minnesota facility, the legislation is delivering more solar manufacturing to U.S. soil.
“For decades, it simply did not make economic sense to build solar manufacturing facilities in the United States,” wrote Heliene president Martin Pochtaruk in an op-ed for Solar Power World. “Fortunately for energy consumers and the nation’s climate goals, this has started to change. There’s never been a better time to invest in domestic solar manufacturing.”
2022 marked a return to relative pre-pandemic normalcy with solar tradeshows back in business, including the largest in the United States, RE+. The show in Anaheim, California, brought a record-setting number of more than 27,000 people together to attend sessions and see new products in person for the first time in years.
“This was the first time we were able to host RE+ in person since 2019. It was clear that the industry was eager to get back together to network and conduct business, in a way that’s hard to replicate online,” said Stephen Miner, president and CEO of RE+ Events, in a press release.
On the regional policy front, utilities and solar advocates continued to clash in 2022, but some compromises gave the industry hope for a more collaborative future. In Minnesota, the public utilities commission approved a new cost-sharing program for residential solar interconnection upgrades that require new solar customers to pay $200 into the program to cover any necessary expensive grid upgrades that ordinarily would be expected from one homeowner. And in California, the utilities commission released a new version of net metering 3.0, which didn’t include the “solar tax” that the solar industry rallied against in the original version. Although utility outcomes are rarely perfect, the solar industry has had a seat at the table in an increasing number of important energy discussions.
In markets large and small, the industry celebrated many milestones over the past year. More utility-scale solar was installed in the first nine months of 2022 than all other forms of energy, according to a SUN DAY Campaign review of FERC data. The number of residential solar homeowners adding storage to their projects reached an all-time high, according to EnergySage. One in 10 of all K-12 schools in the country have gone solar, according to Generation180. And the job market recovered from pandemic lows, adding 21,500 jobs in 2021, according to IREC.
The stage is set for a dramatic ramp-up of solar and storage deployment over the next 10 years, but the industry must stay engaged to get the most out of the opportunities ahead.
“SEIA helped deliver the most transformational clean energy bill in history, and now the real work begins,” said SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper in a press statement. “SEIA is keenly focused on implementation and is well-positioned to tackle the challenges that remain, including land use, recycling, ethical supply chains, workforce and more. Addressing these issues will require a thoughtful, comprehensive vision, and it’s incumbent upon the entire solar and storage industry to build support for this new clean energy era.”