Kiley Kroh of Think Progress writes U.S. Residential Solar Just Beat Commercial Installations For The First Time, with solar energy accounting for 74% of all new electricity generation in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014.
The first quarter of 2014 was another big one for the U.S. solar industry, with 74 percent of all new electricity generation across the country coming from solar power. The 1,330 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) installed last quarter bring the total in the U.S. up to 14.8 gigawatts of installed capacity — enough to power three million homes, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
In addition to being the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power, a method of large-scale solar generation that uses a unique ‘salt battery’ to allow the solar plant to keep producing power even when the sun goes down, it was also the first time in the history of SEIA’s reports that residential solar installations surpassed commercial in the same time period. 232 MW of residential PV were installed in the first quarter, compared to 225 MW of commercial solar.
Another encouraging surprise we learn in this article is that the Center for American Progress found "it’s middle class families that are driving the rooftop solar revolution with “more than 60 percent of solar installations are occurring in zip codes with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000.”
This revolution is a threat to utilities’ current business model, since more customers going solar means they’re buying less electricity from the utility. The result in several states has been a push by utilities to scale back incentives or even charge solar customers an additional fee. In Arizona, for instance, Arizona Public Service (APS) has aggressively sought to undercut residential solar and last fall, the state’s energy regulator voted to add what amounts to a $5 per month surcharge on solar customers. The decision was widely viewed as a compromise, particularly considering the considerable amount of money spent by APS and outside groups, several of which were funded by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch.
Kiley Kroh also recounts how a number of utilities in Arizona, Oklahoma, and San Antonia are trying to slow solar energy's penetration into electric market by trying to add surcharges for customers using the "net-back" laws allowing them to sell surplus electricity back to the utility. Also, Arizona's solar power advocates allege the Arizona Power System is behind a move to force customers who lease solar panels to pay property taxes of them.
Kroh presents a number of compelling arguments to counter utilities should be allowed to charge solar customer higher fees countering that solar customer are delivering power back to the grid at peak load hours, reducing the need for expensive peak-load production. They also reduce the amount of electricity coming from coal fired plants, and reduce wear and tear on transmission lines by reducing the amount of electricity through them.
As the costs of renewable energy generation, including residential generation, continues to fall dramatically, at the same time the costs of conventional fossil fuel burning generation continues to rise the traditional business model for utilities is getting scrunched. If the new standards for reducing carbon emission that we expect the EPA to announce tomorrow are passed, the cost of coal generation will increase more coming closer to represent it true cost to society.
Sadly, we see much evidence that utilities, and those with large financial interests the fossil fuel industry are looking for ways to reduce the appeal of solar and wind generation.
8:37 PM PT: Thanks to Shockwave for bringing us this link documenting California's wind generation.
State Wind Energy Statistics: California"
California led the world in wind energy development through much of the 1980s and 1990s. Today, California remains a national leader in the wind industry, ranking second in the U.S. for wind power installations and second for wind industry jobs, all while boasting over 20 wind-related manufacturing facilities.
Wind Projects in California2013 CA 80m onshore
Installed Wind Capacity: 5,812 megawatts (MW). State Rank: California ranks 2nd for total MW installed.
Number of Wind Turbines: 12,158 turbines. State Rank: California ranks 1st for number of utility-scale wind turbines.
Wind Projects Online: 144 wind projects
Wind Capacity Added in 2013: 269 MW
Wind Capacity Added in 2012: 1656.2 MW. State Rank: California added the 2nd most new wind capacity additions in 2012, and surpassed Iowa to become the state with the 2nd most wind capacity.
Wind Capacity Added in 2011: 923.3 MW
Wind Capacity in Queue: 4,253 MW
Percentage of California's electricity provided by wind in 2013: 6.6 percent. Note: This includes only in-state generation. California imports wind energy from across the Northwest and Mountain West and has a higher total when these imports are factored in.