The clean energy revolution continues and solar is leading the charge. In a recently published report, the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories documented that the cost of utility-scale solar, generated from large plants rather than residential rooftops, has decreased by 30 percent within the past year. This happy news aligns with another recent announcement by the SunShot Initiative, a parallel effort within the US Department of Energy, which declared that their cost targets set for solar energy had been met years before their 2020 deadline. All of this serves as a reminder that, despite the politics of the moment, solar energy continues to rapidly become more cost effective and accessible, paving the way for a cleaner energy future.
Although China has frequently been cited by the US President as a dangerous competitor, the solar renaissance in the United States has been made possible because of the pioneering work in solar energy being done in the People’s Republic. More solar modules are being produced in China than there is demand, which has enabled US importers to purchase this technology at low prices. As a result, the average price per watt is now only $1.03 for fixed-tilt systems and $1.11 for those that move to track the sun’s movement.
While rooftop and residential solar system may represent the most visible manifestation of solar’s growth and reach, it is utility-scale solar systems, which feed into the grid, which have the most potential to change the game. Taking note of the ever-decreasing price of solar and demand from consumers for cleaner forms of energy, utility companies have invested funds to increase the share of solar in their portfolio. For example, Duke Energy Florida recently announced plans to spend $6 billion on solar infrastructure, scrapping its previous plans to invest in nuclear power. If trends continue, it is estimated that 139 countries, including the United States and China, could switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, with solar contributing the lion’s share.