Saturday, July 7, 2012

Survey: Solar Optimism on the Rise

Individuals worldwide are optimistic about the future of solar power, according to a recent international survey conducted by solar equipment manufacturer Applied Materials. Fifty-five percent of respondents believe solar energy is cheaper than traditional energy sources. Of the respondents who said it is more expensive, 39 percent said it would become the more cost-effective option within nine years.

The United States is particularly optimistic about the potential for job growth created by the solar industry, with 58 percent of U.S. respondents indicating solar initiatives would create jobs.

"Solar power makes sense for our planet and for our children, and we need to recognize that the solution to our energy needs is already in our hands," said Dr. Charlie Gay, president of Applied Materials' Solar division. "By 2050 the world population is expected to plateau at 9 billion people, and by that time it will be imperative we have a sustainable energy source in place that has the potential to solve our energy challenges for perpetuity. Since the planning horizon for utilities extends over time periods of 30 to 40 years, the opportunity to influence the world's long-term energy supply is now."

Although the survey revealed solar optimism, it found mixed results in the area of solar awareness. Only 17 percent of respondents were able to correctly identify Germany as the leading country for solar panel installations, indicating a higher need for solar industry education. The other top countries for solar installation include the United States, Italy, Japan and Spain.

Solar installation in the U.S.

The U.S. solar industry has made significant strides in 2012. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association report "U.S. Solar Market Insight Q1 2012," the U.S. began 2012 with the highest quarter for solar installations. Over 18,000 photovoltaic systems totalling 506 megawatts (MW) came online in the first three months of the year."

The report also highlights historic growth in the U.S. solar market, which grew 35 percent quarter-over-quarter and is projected to expand 75 percent by the end of 2012. Although the solar market in the U.S. has grown considerably since 2011, several states were highlighted as leaders in solar energy. The top five states for solar installation in the first quarter were: New Jersey, California, Arizona, Massachusetts and Tennessee.

SEIA also had some good news for homeowners looking to install solar panels. Costs for PV equipment continued to drop, and the price of residential solar installations went down by 7.3 percent compared with 2011.

New Jersey's Solar Efforts

In order to earn its position as the leading state for solar installations, New Jersey installed 174 megawatts of solar energy projects.

According to SEIA's New Jersey Solar Fact Sheet, the Garden State has significantly increased its solar energy capacity. The state completed a total of 607.1 MW of installations by the beginning of 2012, compared to 313.3 MW in 2011, and has completed a total of 15,760 PV solar projects.

The fact sheet highlights two utility-scale solar projects, the McGraw-Hill Solar Farm in East Windsor and the NJ Oak Solar Farm in Fairfield Township. The McGraw-Hill farm has a total capacity of 14 MW and is expected to eliminate 12,600 metric tons of CO2 annually, or the equivalent output of 2,500 cars.


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