The good news is that solar energy is becoming cheaper, but the question of the hour is whether Congress will let an essential incentive expire with the New Year just as the solar energy is making a perceptible toehold in the U.S.
Today's Energy Solutions describes how the declining cost of solar and other renewable energy points to "the high growth potential for the nascent renewable energy (RE) industry." According to the article,
The solar market is poised for unprecedented growth according to industry analysts due to its minimal penetration of 0.01% in global electricity generation and its access to three markets - utility, enterprise, and residential. Growth in solar installations is estimated to translate into $100 billion of solar energy revenues by 2013, from the current $30 billion level.
Fortunately, the market for solar systems has shown resilience as of late, and 2010 is expected to be a year of renewed growth driven by more than 3GW in new utility power projects and new federal subsidy or investment programs in China, Brazil, Japan, Canada, India, and Greece.
And when The Economist talks, you have got to listen. The article describes the declining cost of some solar technologies, and summarizes:
This all adds up to a bright future for cheap solar energy. The lowest-cost producers should soon be able to compete without subsidy against high-priced competition and in very sunny places. As solar cells' manufacturing costs keep falling, there will be ever more places where they are as economical as fossil fuels, without any need for green justification.
Just as all of this good news is coming out about how solar energy is poised for growth (and we have heard this many times before), one sure fire way to squash the growth is to eliminate a major tax incentive for renewable energy. As Reuters points out, over a thousand solar projects with total investments of $1.3 billion in 42 states have been built with support from a program that will expire with the New Year.Growth projections for solar energy will significantly change in the United States, when 2,000 megawatts is planned for 2011. Without the program, this estimate could be slashed to 800 megawatts if the program isn't extended, according to the Reuters report.