Today is my first day full-time with SACE, but I’ve been transitioning into this Solar Program Director role part-time since June. In the whirlwind world of the solar industry and policy, I thought it appropriate to pause today and introduce myself along with a bit of my vision for this role.
My job here is to drive solar adoption in the Southeastern states, and the stage is certainly set. It’s a fabulous time to be working on solar and, despite continued challenges and battles throughout the nation, positive momentum is building. Solar photovoltaic (PV) prices have dropped 99% in my lifetime – the installed cost has dropped 70% just this decade. Some recent utility-scale projects have been commissioned below US$1/Watt.
Solar is becoming mainstream for economic reasons as well as environmental ones. Here are just a few of my initial observations.
Solar PV in the Southeast has been doubling each year for the last five years. North Carolina has the second-most solar capacity in the entire U.S.A. (behind California) and represents more than half of the solar PV across our seven-state Southeast region (North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi). The Southeast has approximately 5 GW (gigawatts) of solar capacity on the ground in 2017 and is on track have 10 GW by 2021.
I do want to point out that it may not be smooth sailing ahead. Our forecasts already anticipates a slowdown as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) ratchets down to a permanent 10% for commercial solar – and goes away completely for residential solar. [Right now, this ITC offers a 30% tax incentive for the cost of installing a solar system. That will reduce to 26% in 2020, 22% in 2021 and then 10% thereafter for business/commercial installation (and 0% for residential solar).]
There’s another “ITC” that could also negatively affect the trajectory of solar growth. The U.S. International Trade Commission will rule this month on the “Section 201” petition filed by Suniva (and joined by SolarWorld). That petition asks for a floor price and a duty on imported crystalline silicon solar modules – a move that, if adopted, is predicted to reduce U.S. solar demand by up to two-thirds (and cut up to 88,000 jobs in the solar installation industry).
Let me also mention a few things I see as opportunities for solar.
Our region has recently experienced cancellation of a few high profile projects: the “clean coal” plant in Kemper County, Mississippi, and the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina. Perhaps solar can be incorporated to fulfill at least part of any additional capacity need.
Storage technologies are gaining a lot of attention (and decreasing in cost). We are part of the FAASSTeR project (Florida Alliance for Accelerating Solar and Storage Technology Readiness) to support the municipal public power utilities’ expansion of grid-integrated solar and energy storage in Florida.
We will continue to advocate for freedom for customers to choose solar. For example, you can join our fight for solar freedom and help unleash the solar market in Tennessee.
I’ll be accompanying two of my other SACE colleagues (and more than 18,000 of our closest solar friends) at Solar Power International later this month. If any of you will be there and want to meet the new guy from SACE, please let me know.
I look forward to solidifying my role at SACE to ensure sustainable growth of solar in the Southeast.