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March 14 News: American Solar Power Broke Records Last Year

By Ryan Koronowski

"March 14 News: American Solar Power Broke Records Last Year"

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According to a new report, America broke records in terms of installed solar capacity last year, jumping to 11 percent of total global installations. [Greentech Media]

It may not compare to the German solar market. But the U.S. is definitely becoming a major force globally when it comes to new installations.

According to the 2012 Solar Market Insight report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, America installed 3,313 megawatts of solar capacity last year — accounting for 11 percent of total global installations. That’s up from 7 percent in 2011.

“From 2004 until 2010, America’s global share had been stuck in a tight band. The U.S. significantly broke that in 2012,” said Shayle Kann, vice president at GTM Research. “Our forecasts put us at 13 percent in 2013.”

In Nevada, federal and state officials announced the approval of the McCoy Solar Energy Project, the Desert Harvest Solar Farm, and the Searchlight Wind Energy Project. [San Jose Mercury News]

Following the worst drought in 50 years, US farmers are bracing for long-term challenges due to climate change like heat waves, droughts, and floods.[Global Post]

Supporters of a bill just introduced to the NC General Assembly that would repeal the state’s Renewable Energy Standard are unsure of its prospects for passage. [Charlotte Business Journal]

Four lawmakers who unveiled a proposal for pricing carbon are soliciting public comments for how big the tax should be and how best to rebate the money. [Washington Post]

Monarch butterfly migration plunged to its lowest level in decades, hastened by drought and record-breaking heat in North America. [New York Times]

Paul Ryan’s budget accuses two solar projects in Nevada and Arizona “ill-fated” but they’re actually success stories. [Washington Post]

President Obama asked Organizing for America to give lawmakers cover on potential action on climate change. [The Hill]

Bill McKibben makes the case that immigration reform will “help, not hurt, our environmental efforts” on climate change. [LA Times]

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9 Responses to March 14 News: American Solar Power Broke Records Last Year

  1. wili says:

    Good news on solar. It looks like it’s been about doubling every year for the past few years. Some questions:

    Is there reason to expect that to continue?

    If so, how many years till solar starts providing significantly more than 1% of the nation’s electricity?

    How much faster could we get there if we engaged in major efforts to reduce electric use, starting with the most wasteful uses?

    When could this ever-cheaper energy be used at a significant level to displace gasoline for transport and NG for heating?

    Again, how much sooner would that day come if we increased efficiency and reduced total miles driven and levels of heating?

    Is there any evidence that this new energy is yet displacing ff energy, or is just adding to the total?

    Even if we could soon get all our energy just from this and other non-ff sources, wouldn’t we still be driving an economy and civilization that is fundamentally at war with the rest of the natural world?

    (Sorry for the barrage of questions, but this forum seems to be one place with enough expertise on hand to address them. Thanks ahead of time for any attempts at answers.)

  2. wili says:

    I think it is important to realize where we are with solar as a percentage of total electric use in the US (and in the world).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States

    In the chart about half way down the page entitled “Electric Production by Renewables in 2011,” they show that solar supplied just .04 percent of the total electric production.

    Given the chart above, the figure for 2012 was presumably significantly closer to .1%; a big improvement, but still a very minor factor in the total electricity picture, and an even smaller portion of the total energy demand picture.

    Now if we really have conditions for continuous exponential growth–more or less doubling every year–it would in theory only take 10 years for solar to make up 100% of electric production.

    That is, of course, unrealistic for all sorts of reasons (and unnecessary, since wind is already on a similarly steep upward trajectory, and more than an order of magnitude ahead of solar).

    But that trajectory could be set back by any number of economic, political or technical factors.

    Meanwhile, we need to be generating negative carbon essentially yesterday to avoid the horrific consequences that we now know start kicking in far below the old 2 degree threshold.

    If we start halving our demand every year, starting with the ‘easy’ stuff–inefficiency, vampire loads, superfluous lighting/heating/cooling–but moving ever more strongly into deeper conservation and curtailment, perhaps we could get to something close to the zero or negative carbon emissions we need to have gotten to by now in under five years.

  3. Christopher says:

    All energy conservation measures should be fully implemented before the first $ is invested in PV. The average person should be able to reduce energy consumption by 30-50%.

    1000watts of PV installed cost about $5000 and generates about the same energy per year as 20 gallons of gas. Reducing you driving by 500 miles per year would reduce CO2 by same amount at a saving of $100.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The Global Post story speaks of ‘following the worst drought…’, then states that 53% of the country remains under drought conditions. Surely it should have said, ‘In the midst of the worst drought etc.’

  5. Paul Magnus says:

    Should Obama be swaed by Canada’s green cedential. Absolutely not….

    Fact-checking Canada’s record on climate change and the oilsands
    http://www.pembina.org
    The Pembina Institute provides policy research leadership and education on climate change, energy issues such as oilsands and coalbed methane, green economics, energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy and environmental governance. We create sustainable energy solutions through research,…
    http://www.pembina.org/blog/697

    • Paul Magnus says:

      The Accidental Activist
      http://thewalrus.ca/the-accidental-activist/

      A fantastic story from on of the most respected Canadians on the planet.

      Quotes
      ——
      We hear, “We are not going to stop using oil tomorrow, so these projects should go ahead.” This is backwards. If these projects proceed, we won’t stop using oil. But if we cap carbon pollution, sales of oil would start to fall today, as the plug-in hybrids and other low-emission vehicles capture a growing market share.

      We hear, “We are just selling the coal, oil, and gas to the Chinese. We are not responsible for their emissions.” This is the sort of rationalization given by arms merchants.

      We hear, “We need the jobs.” When the BC government cancelled one natural gas plant and two coal plants, the resulting hydro, wind, and wood waste projects created twice as many jobs. A similar effect would occur as we replaced gasoline and diesel with ethanol, biodiesel, and more zero-emission electricity in our vehicles.

      We hear, “Canada contributes only 2 percent to global emissions, so there is no point making an effort until everyone acts at once.” Yet every year on Remembrance Day, Stephen Harper extols our critical role in confronting Nazi Germany’s global threat. He fails to mention that we actually contributed less than 2 percent of the Allied effort in World War II; one million Canadians served in our armed forces, compared with over 60 million who fought from the USSR, the US, the British Empire, China, France, Poland, and other countries. Even though we were only 2 percent of the solution, we have something to be proud of.