New faces and familiar faces: the pv magazine USA weekly digest

This was another busy week for the U.S. solar market, including three major executive appointments.

Topping the list, after a year of interim directors, the U.S. Department of Energy has chosen solar industry veteran Charlie Gay as the permanent leader of its SunShot Initiative. This was followed by news that former Duke executive Matt Walz will take over as CEO of REC solar, and M+W Group appointing Jim Brown as head of M+W Energy.

Also this week, Berkeley Lab put out its annual Tracking the Sun and Utility-Scale Solar reports, which show ongoing price collapses across all market sectors, and most utility-scale solar PPAs falling below $50 per megawatt-hour. However, a day later EIA put this in context, with first half 2016 electricity generation figures showing that despite an increase in overall renewable energy to 16.8% of generation, solar PV only provided 1.3% of U.S. power.

Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity also moved forward this week, with the Federal Trade Commission providing anti-trust approval. Before you get too excited, remember that financial regulators and shareholders both have to approve the merger before it can go through.

This week we saw more signs of trouble at SolarCity, with Elon Musk and the Rive brothers buying up $100 million of the company’s $124 million high-interest bond offering, and news that the company will lay off 108 employees in the San Francisco Bay Area, including 80 at its headquarters.

On the bright side, this week we saw signs of a new funding mechanism for low-income solar, with Colorado competing a pilot PV installation using federal Weatherization Assistance Program funds. This $215 million annual program could build a lot of PV for low-income families.

Finally, Vivint Solar expanded into Florida, which has not been a very large solar market to date. One possible motivating factor is the big ballot initiative coming next Tuesday, which could remove heavy taxes on third-party residential and C&I solar installations. We’ll be watching this vote closely, so be sure to check in next Wednesday morning for vote results and analysis.