Why 2016 is the Year to Choose Community Solar
Earlier this month, Greentech Media (GTM) hosted their annual Solar Market Insights Conference in San Diego. One major undercurrent of the conference was that the solar industry is reaching its stride, despite the looming expiration of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in 2017. Another major theme was that the industry’s greatest challenge is education about solar options.
For context, it is helpful to know that solar technology has been available for over 40 years. Until recently, solar has not been accessible to the masses, mainly due to high costs and lack of utility programs. However, within the last twenty years, solar adoption has increased tremendously, thanks to programs like net metering and community solar.
About the ITC
In 2006, the ITC legislation was introduced and the tax credit allowed for high return on solar investments. The ITC created thousands of jobs and promoted huge advancements in photovoltaic production and technology. The ITC enabled economies of scale for the solar industry and today the price of solar is now competitive with fossil fuel sources. Today, solar is available and affordable for many Americans.
What happens if the ITC expires?
If the ITC expires, there will be some inevitable downturn in solar industry growth, but by no means will it be an industry killer. Senior analysts from GTM project that if the tax credit goes away:
- The level of growth in the solar industry will drop to 2014 levels.
- The solar industry would see the first decrease in growth in 20 years.
- Solar production won’t stop, demand won’t diminish, and coal plants will still retire.
- There will be steady growth after 2017 and the industry should reach 2016 levels of growth by 2019.
Why aren’t more people adopting solar?
The simple answer is a lack of education about solar. Most Americans know very little about solar energy or electricity in general, and they are not aware of the solar programs that are available to them today. They have misconceptions about the cost of solar and their options for choosing a clean energy source. Most people do not realize that solar can provide long term savings with no upfront costs and is reliable and affordable right now.
In some cases, people realize that their homes are unsuitable for a rooftop solar energy system, and think that’s the end of it. However, these people should be aware that many states, including Colorado, Minnesota, New York have community solar programs, which allow all energy users to access the economic and environmental benefits of clean, locally produced solar energy.
How can we promote widespread solar adoption?
- All energy users must begin to think more about where their electricity comes from.
- The solar industry must provide basic educational materials that tell the masses about available solar options.
- Consumers should be proactive and research what programs are available to them. If they cannot or do not want to install a rooftop solar energy system, they should consider subscribing to a community solar farm, also known as a community solar garden. For example, Xcel Energy’s Minnesota community solar program can be found here.
However people find out about solar programs, 2016 is a great time to make the switch to clean power. If the ITC goes away, prices will rise in 2017 and people can expect to pay more than what they would have paid in 2016. For now, prices for solar panels are cheaper than ever, there are a lot of incentives, and there are more solar financing options than ever. Additionally, electricity prices are projected to continue to rise. By getting into a solar program now, people will take advantage of lower prices of both solar and electricity rates.
Subscribing to community solar through a company like SunShare is by far the simplest way to promote solar energy. To learn more, please visit www.mysunshare.com.