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March marked a historic month for renewable energy, as for first time ever 100% of new utility electricity generation added to the US grid came from solar power. According to a report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), seven solar projects in California, Nevada, New Jersey, Hawaii, Arizona, and North Carolina added 44MW to the grid. It may not be a particularly jaw-dropping figure, but as projects from other energy sources added no new generation, solar’s record month does point to a promising outlook for the industry.
One could point to a slow month in new electricity generation overall, but additional figures show that in the first quarter of 2013, 537 megawatts of the 1,880MW of utility power brought online came from solar, running second only to new wind power (958MW). Overall, 82 percent of new grid electricity for the first quarter of 2013 has come from renewable sources—the other 18 percent from natural gas.
With solar accounting for 30 percent of all new utility electricity for 2013 so far, the news bodes well for green jobs as well as renewable energy growth. As Quartz points out, several large scale solar projects are set to go online later this year, and yet more are still being announced. The SEIA points out that the solar economy now employs 119,000 people, a 13.2 percent growth over 2011 and these continued projects will invariably create more jobs.
Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association explained “Since 2008, the amount of solar powering U.S. homes, businesses and military bases has grown by more than 600 percent—from 1,100 megawatts to more than 7,700 megawatts today. As FERC’s report suggests, and many analysts predict, solar will grow to be our nation’s largest new source of energy over the next four years… These new numbers from FERC support our forecast that solar will continue a pattern of growth in 2013, adding 5.2 GW of solar electric capacity.”
The projects that helped create this landmark month include 26MW from NRG Energy’s 26MW Borrego Solar Project near San Diego, California and 1.3MW installed at the Greensboro Natural Science Center in North Carolina.