It is an exciting time to be involved in solar! Given our exposure to both solar development and installation, we are often asked about broad trends we see in the industry. A new year offers a great opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and consider where we are going in the world of solar.
Last Minute ITC Extension
While the much-desired and rightly celebrated last-minute extension of the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) will facilitate longer-term growth for our industry, it will also flatten out the growth spike many were predicting for this year. This unexpected (and welcomed) passage of the bill is just another example of the dynamic nature of this industry.
More Solar Than Was There Before
One interesting trend we find is enterprises that do go solar often decide to go ahead and do more solar soon after their first installations are online. Customers are often pleasantly surprised by just how little they need to worry about their arrays—with minimal monitoring and some annual cleaning, the modules collect energy with no further effort needed.
Solar is increasingly seen as a mainstream energy option–one for which there is growing demand. In a recent poll, Stephen Ansolabehere, a Harvard Government professor who has monitored attitudes toward energy and climate for more than a decade, reported 80% of Americans said they want solar and wind energy to “increase a lot,” while another 10% feel it should “increase somewhat.” The economics are compelling, and that story is getting out.
A Competitive Advantage
The business community is also beginning to realize the competitive advantages associated with solar; companies that become long-term, low-cost energy producers with solar are improving their bottom line. If you are the only one in your market with an array, these savings represent a competitive advantage.
Still another intriguing trend is the emerging need for collaboration between solar installers and utilities. While there were concerns of reaching theoretical limits in some neighborhoods, we have seen progressive utilities figure out how to put more and more solar into the grid.
Solar as a Job Creator
With the extension of the ITC in December, solar promises to continue to have a positive impact on the domestic employment base.
Recent statistics demonstrate the solar industry is a job creator–the sector experienced 85% job growth between 2010 and 2014, and it represented one out of every 78 new U.S. jobs created in the last two years.
The industry has experienced unprecedented growth over the past 18 months, and continued expansion will permit the industry to maintain its status as the fastest-growing energy generation source. Domestic solar is now estimated to be 28,000 MW, or enough to power 4.5 million American homes, and a Solar Foundation report predicts 54% more solar capacity over the ITC extension period (versus a no-extension scenario).
Sunvestment Energy Group is positioned well, and we are fortunate to be able to grow with our industry. 2016 will see the opening of another office in Maryland, and we are adding two full-time hires the first week of the new year.
Our success in 2016 and beyond will result from our focused collective efforts. We will build our team, service clients, and offer ongoing education; we continue to enjoy our role as industry ambassadors and educators, and we love to see people get it when they understand that free fuel from the sun creates an enormous multiplier of savings.
A Word of Thanks
Finally I want to thank everyone on the SEG team for their relentless efforts to both educate and execute. Many of our team members wear both of these hats, and I am grateful for their hard work to get out the solar message and help clients to implement the best systems with the right technology and financing to take advantage of free fuel from the sun.
We also have to thank our clients for their willingness to collaborate with us and assist in our outreach. Anyone who has spent the time needed to understand solar deserves our thanks.
Last but not least, we must acknowledge the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) for its success in communicating the solar story to our legislators. Ongoing education is a vital part of our efforts. When prospective customers see the data, the economic arguments are really compelling. In the case of the SEIA in 2015, that education resulted in the extension of the ITC, which will enable our industry’s success for years to come.
Have a bright 2016!
Sunvestment Energy Group