You can’t kill the solar industry — and all attempts just make us stronger


By Tony Clifford, Chief Development Officer of Standard Solar

No matter how much the Trump Administration would like to kill the solar industry, they just can’t seem to do it.

You can see their efforts on multiple fronts. It started with the tariffs on solar panels, but that was just the beginning. Then there were the tariffs on steel and aluminum, which harmed the racking companies. And the hits—or at least attempted hits—just kept coming in the form of other tariffs on materials vital to the United States solar industry. Not to mention, of course, the completely unnecessary trade war with China.

But the numbers from the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) U.S. Solar Market 2018 Year-in-Review Report indicated that despite all the headwinds, we still added 10.6 GW of solar to the country’s increasingly renewable energy matrix. And we have showed no signs of slowing down.

Now, it is true that 10.6 GW is a 2% decrease from 2017, and that’s slightly disappointing. In the face of all the attempts to arrest the solar industry’s growth coming from our federal officials, however, the solar industry should be dancing a jaunty jig.

There are two reasons for solar’s continued growth despite the obstacles in its way:

Climate change: Even the most entrenched climate-change deniers are starting to realize that science doesn’t care about their gut feelings. The number of deniers is dwindling and, almost in spite of themselves, these late climate-change converts are starting to search for solutions. Given solar’s impeccable record as a clean-energy source, it’s a logical go-to solution in an attempt to stop climate change’s worst effects. It can’t be the only solution, but it also has to be part of the solution.

State Policies: While federal lawmakers seem (for now) content to fiddle while the planet burns, the states are not quite so sanguine. And instead of waiting for the feds to come to the rescue, many states are taking matters into their own hands and passing pro-solar legislation. California and Hawaii are, of course, at the forefront of those states who are adding solar at a stunning rates. The movement, however, is spreading.

After all, Illinois is beginning to build a robust solar industry in the wake of passing its Future Energy Jobs Act of 2016, and they’re in the process of following it up with a Clean Energy Jobs Act this year. And they’re not the only Midwestern state to join the Solar Revolution. Minnesota is the birthplace of the best community solar program in the nation, and Michigan is (albeit slowly) bringing its solar policies into the 21st century.

New York is plunging ahead as the leader of the Northeast solar revolution, with New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut close behind. Florida and Georgia are leading the Southeast into the solar future. And in the Southwest, Texas, Nevada and New Mexico (which recently joined California and Hawaii in pledging to get to 100% clean energy within the next 20 years) are leading the way.

Even in the cloudy Pacific Northwest, Washington and Oregon—under the visionary leadership of Jay Inslee and Kate Brown, respectively—are moving forward to make solar a more integral part of their states’ electricity plans.

In other words, the states get it. The Solar Revolution is here, and it’s not going anywhere.

So while federal policymakers dither, the states are carrying out the Solar Revolution in the United States. And that bodes well for the future. As SEIA also reported, the total installed capacity for 2019 is expected to rise 14%, and annual installations are expected to reach 15.8 GW per year in just two years.

So despite their best attempts to destroy it, the solar industry thrives. We are here, we will be here and we’re going to thwart any attempts to kill us off. So they might as well stop—we aren’t going anywhere.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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