Monday, February 29, 2016

The Sunny Future Of Solar Panels

The Sunny Future Of Solar Panels


2008 was a record year for solar. So was 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and — you guessed it — 2015. Last year, the U.S. solar industry installed over 7,286 megawatts of solar power, bringing total installed solar in the country to 28,000 megawatts. That’s enough to power over 4.5 million homes!

This is great news for today’s energy profile. However, even better news is that the future of solar power looks just as sunny.

Will loss of incentives kill solar?


Government renewable energy incentives have traditionally been a major driver of solar sales. In particular, the federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) allows a home or business owner to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installation. This incentive has been highly instrumental in making solar energy affordable and supporting industry growth.

However, the ITC is set to expire at the end of 2016, which accounts in part for the flurry of new installations as former fence-sitters hurry to get their systems installed before the deadline.

Will the incentives be renewed? No one knows yet for sure. Some predict that the industry will suffer if they don’t. However, while the end of the ITC will doubtlessly affect the market sooner or later, there is no reason to believe that solar will ever go down for the count. Here’s why:

·         Economies of scale. As more people invest in solar, it becomes cheaper to manufacture panels. The price of solar has dropped precipitously over the past decade. While the inevitable loss of the ITC is bound to put a dent in solar sales, keep in mind that solar is a global economy. Even if the U.S. experiences a lull, India, China and many other countries are likely to take up the slack and keep the price of solar panels low.
·         Streamlining systems. Advances in microinverter and other solar technology are simplifying solar. With fewer components per installation predicted for the future, both the material and labor costs of installation will most likely continue to decline.
·         Innovative applications. Dozens of companies have technological advances in the works that may not be hitting the market yet, but are likely to expand the market for solar once they do. For instance, a new transparent solar panel developed at Michigan State could revolutionize the industry by turning any sunny window into a power generator, once the technology is improved to the point of being marketable.
·         Utility-scale breakthroughs. Authors of a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study note that we are likely to see utility-scale solar plants with the capacity to generate multiple terawatts by 2050. (Today’s plants typically provide no more than 550 megawatts.) This will definitely increase the percentage of homes worldwide that are powered by the sun.

How to make the future of solar even brighter


Solar is here to stay. That’s a fact, for all of the above reasons, plus the fact that it just makes sense from an environmental standpoint — something the governments of the world are slowly starting to realize and accept. However, for the health of the industry and the planet, renewing the ITC for just a few more years would be a smart choice. A recent economic study conducted at Stanford University suggests that continuing the subsidies for just another 10 years is all it is likely to take to bridge the gap to where non-subsidized solar is economically competitive. This scenario would keep the solar trajectory going forward smoothly and avoid putting unnecessary stress on an industry that so deserves to thrive!

 Ryan McNeil is the president of Renewable Energy Corporation, a Mid-Atlantic residential solar energy company that is committed to installing quality, American-made solar panels, solar water heaters, solar attic fans and many more products.

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