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Solar Surge in the US

Solar Surge in the US: Everything You Need to Know

Solar Business Tips

Even though other industries are suffering economic setbacks in the United States, solar seems to be different. People see the potential of solar and are moving to take advantage of it. According to Environment America Research & Policy Center, in 2022, 121.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) power will be available in the United States, enough to power 23 million homes.

Due to their population density, America’s major cities put a high demand on the electrical grid. One million Americans have already invested in solar energy, and millions more are on their way. What was once unused or under-used space in a city can now be used to harvest clean energy, making the installation of rooftop solar panels a significant benefit.

America’s top cities are building solar energy

Local governments are setting their sights on solar projects. Installing solar panels on public buildings and integrating them with the electric infrastructure are all on the table. Incentive programs have even been created to encourage adoption by new customers. Processing fees associated with solar applications are being reduced in many cities to make it easier for people to go solar and contribute to a cleaner environment. People are embracing solar products in a way they never have before, and the market demand is bearing that out.

According to a report, nine US cities can generate about 3.5 gigatonnes of solar electricity—more than the country did a decade ago! Between 2014 and 2022, the solar capacity of 52 out of 56 cities has doubled. These nine cities have contributed 1,545 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity over the past two years. The table below shows that Los Angeles has been leading with respect to the total utility scale-solar installed capacity from 2018 to 2020.
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Policies behind solar development

The reason behind solar power surge in the US market is not only growing demand—state governments and utility commissions have realized solar power’s environmental effects, utility, and health benefits. As a result, they have made changes to existing policy in an effort to support solar production. And it does not stop there. Cities are adopting policies at the municipal level that are aggressive by comparison, setting higher goals, offering incentives, and providing education programs on solar and photovoltaics.

As states have created financial incentives to make photovoltaics a more attractive option, local governments have tried to align their policies at the municipal level. Local solar energy goals have been created that parallel state standards and existing solar carve-outs. Government policies that support solar are an important factor in how quickly cities and states develop their solar energy.

Every local government can implement policies to promote solar energy, but cities with municipal utilities have the opportunity to make solar power the city’s primary source of energy. When cities start to operate their own utilities, they can meet solar energy goals without purchasing solar power from third parties.

Challenges still remain

Although a number of government measures have been taken, the industry is still not free of challenges. Apart from supply chain and shipping considerations, the fossil fuel industry (FFI) is threatening solar manufacturers. As the fossil fuel industry falters, some utilities are actively working to impede solar energy’s growth across the country. The FFI is backing measures like slashing compensation for the additional power that solar consumers supply to the grid and implementing solar-specific charges on electric bills.

The fossil fuel industry has influenced policy changes—and its efforts have had a negative impact on the solar market. There are now some states, including California, Florida, and Louisiana, where the solar energy market is threatened by proposed policy changes. Solar energy analysts are warning that the industry could be set back years by the proposed changes and the uncertainty around what the new rules and policies will actually be.

Moving forward

But people still want solar, and local governments can kickstart their solar energy development by creating roadmaps that meet these goals. By integrating with an online permitting system called SolarAPP+ (Solar Automated Permit Processing) solar applications can be instantly approved for building permits; this allows permitting departments to focus on more complex applications. SolarAPP+ allows more consumers to be approved, and permits departments to better use their resources—everyone wins.

Providing access to solar energy through solar community projects, virtual net metering, and third-party financing options such as power purchase agreements (PPAs) can boost the solar industry. Local governments can implement policies that support solar energy storage, electric vehicle smart charging, and microgrids.

At the state level, governments can support solar adoption by preserving strong interconnection and net metering policies. They can set a target of 100% renewable energy and update long-term resource plans to lock in a significant solar buildout. Government can encourage solar installations through incentives such as rebate programs, green bonds, tax credits, and zero-interest finance programs.

Nationally, the federal government can continue and expand its financial support for solar energy and tax credits. A 26% tax credit is available from the government for solar panel installation costs. Through ARPA-E, the government should invest in energy storage research and development to strengthen cities’ power grids during extreme weather and use the other benefits of energy storage. Tax credits can be increased to 30% and extended to energy storage systems.

As the government is consuming vast amounts of energy for thousands of buildings, they are in a position to set a strong example by choosing to install solar applications wherever possible—starting with the rooftops of government buildings. Additionally, the government can continue to support research that drives solar power innovations.

Conclusion

It is evident that many local governments are taking advantage of solar energy, and with good reason. America’s major cities have the potential to lead the way in solar energy development, but they need local government support to make that happen. Roadmaps can help create a plan for how each city can develop its solar potential and meet the needs of its citizens.

Cities and states that have set goals for renewable energy or solar power are seeing the benefits of job creation and economic development. If you are interested in learning more about updates on the latest trends in this industry, keep following our resources.

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