Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Cost of Going Solar Keeps Shrinking, and Solar Grows the U.S. Economy

It may be overheating the Earth, but our sun is still the gift that keeps on giving, if you’re looking for clean energy or robust economics. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s new Department of Energy study Tracking the Sun crunched the price of photovoltaics from 1998-2013 and found that the cost of going solar is predictably plummeting.

From 2013 to the halfway mark of 2014, the price tag for various rooftop systems dropped 12-15 percent, with an extra 5-12 percent thrown in for systems in larger states like California, Arizona, Massachusetts and New York. That’s four years and counting the industry has trended costs downward — a poker tell if there ever was one.

“Today, solar provides 143,000 good-paying jobs nationwide, pumps nearly $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy and is helping to significantly reduce pollution,” SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch explained in collaborative press release with Vote Solar. “There are now more than half a million American homes, businesses and schools with installed solar, and this is good news for freedom of energy choice as well as for our environment.”

Meanwhile, returns on solar investment are tracking oppositional, exponentially upward. According to Bloomberg, private equity and venture capital firms are pouring $5 billion into rooftop solar this year, nicely above the $3. 3 billion of 2013, and a harbinger of things to come. Things like money, well spent, whether on solar panels or power, hopefully both.

“We knew that in order to maintain quality and be able to scale, you have to build up your own infrastructure,” SolarCity Chief CEO and co-founder Lyndon Rive told Bloomberg. “Our competitors are now realizing that.”

The numbers are sparkingly clear, for those already in the solar game or wondering if now is the time to dive in. Solar’s climate change argument is unassailable: It is the king of cleantech, given that the sun daily bombards our planet with enough light to last for years. That environmentally friendly fact is finally transforming the energy market, resulting in more resilient homes and pensions for those buying into photovoltaics. In a globally warmed world, solar is the closest thing to a sure thing.

“These price declines mean that solar power is now an affordable option for families, schools, businesses and utilities alike,” VoteSolar’s executive director Adam Browning explained. “Its grid, economic and environmental benefits are shining in communities across the country.”


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