Posts tagged “solar energy”
Zachary Shahan just put together statistics on the amount of solar installed by state on a per capita basis through 2012.
The results are interesting (and the full post can be found here) but none of these results are more interesting than the curious case of Arizona.
Arizona has historically been a large coal producing and consuming state and despite recent growth in solar has not been a leader on renewable energy policy or deployment.
Three Thoughts on the State of the Solar Market
There has been some upheaval upstream in the solar industry. If you follow the solar business for any reason you know that solar manufacturers are challenged by excess supply and dropping panel prices, just this week rumors that industry stalwart JA Solar was facing possible delisting by NASDAQ surfaced. There have obviously been some high-profile failures of solar manufacturing companies. None of this should have come as a surprise – industry consolidation was expected (or should have been). Consolidation occurs naturally when an industry or technology moves up the adoption curve – new participants, new approaches to technology, new manufacturing techniques, increased scale and competition all accelerate price declines, which inevitably leaves some early industry participants vulnerable because sunk investment forces higher per unit production costs. In the case of solar, a surprisingly rapid drop in prices for photovoltaic panels was further accelerated by significant Chinese government investment in panel manufacturing capacity. The pace of the price drop surprised much of the industry and overleveraged solar manufacturers were caught trying to meet price points that were economically unsustainable. (See more: Wind Tax Credits and the State of Solar: A Discussion With Admiral Dennis McGinn)
Recently, I sat down to speak with Vice Admiral (Ret.) Denny McGinn, the President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). Adm. McGinn served for 35 years in the Navy as a naval aviator and test pilot, rising to command an Aircraft Carrier, and ultimately the 3rd Fleet. His final position on active duty was as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Requirements and Programs at the Pentagon, which helps scope and develop the Navy’s capabilities for the future.
State of the Solar Industry
We had a wide ranging discussion on renewable energy issues, touching on issues that will be familiar to regular readers of my blog column, including the rapid growth of solar power and the challenge of Chinese competition, wind power, the military’s transition to clean energy, and the politics of renewable energy. I’ve divided the interview into two blog posts. In this one I will talk about wind and solar, while I will focus on the military in the next.
The continued existence and expansion of human civilization is wholly dependent on affordable sources of energy. The latest study just released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (an organization that exists to study and promote the viability of renewable energy) suggests that it may be possible to get 80% or so of our electric power from renewable sources by 2050. The study also (inadvertently) provides evidence that renewable energy will be a minority player in humanity’s energy portfolio.
The results may disappoint my fellow solar enthusiasts because it suggests that only 13% of our electric energy will come from solar. Distributed solar enthusiasts (who favor photovoltaic solar panels on rooftops) will be further disappointed because half of that 13% will come from water-sucking centralized concentrated solar thermal power plants, many located in desert ecosystems, leaving only about 6% for solar panels on rooftops, of which many will probably not be on rooftops but in centralized power plants, probably displacing ecosystems or crops.