I’ve been asked time and again about projections for installed residential solar on rooftops in America. Well, I’ve asked others this same question and nobody knows for sure. For the past two years, I’ve done my homework and have come to rely on the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) /Department of Energy (DOE) as the best place to find info on America’s residential solar installs – both estimated and hard data. Of course SolarCity, Sun Run, Sungevity, and others in this business have their numbers too, but we can’t get access to this information and they aren’t sharing. I figure they’re all in the same ballpark anyway.
No doubt the market is emerging, but it is still too fragmented and diverse to get an accurate and meaningful projection at this time.
My own sources besides NREL are; the Vote Solar Initiative, SolarTech, and ASES. Each one of these organizations has some useful data/information that can be gathered to provide insight. If you’ve been reading this blog, you already know something about Vote Solar. SolarTech is a consortium that is working with just about all players along the spectrum to remove barriers to residential solar and they have some useful data. I appreciate the work they do to “…making solar happen” [their motto]. http://www.solartech.org/
ASES Conference 2011 in Raleigh North Carolina
The America Solar Energy Society (ASES) is holding its annual convention in May 17-21 this year in Raleigh North Carolina. I intend to go, accompanied by several other Solar Oregon representatives, and will sniff around to get any published data on the subject. I believe this is the best conference to do research on residential rooftop solar in America. We’ll see.
- OSEIA and OREP state their case before the Oregon PUC
What everyone agrees on is that our market is currently “policy-driven” and that is where many of us are fighting to hold and/or extend our incentive programs until the product price and other barriers are either reduced or eliminated. I’ve been at the Oregon capital twice in the past week monitoring the current policy activities of state legislative committees and PUC re: FIT (actually VIR*), RETC and BETC. They are all under scrutiny or attack at this time. I thought the testimonies of Mark Pengilly (OREP*), Glenn Monty (OSEIA*) and a large number of local solar installers, were well presented and quite compelling. [I’ll blog more about this soon as there’s a lot of stuff going on in Salem, and most other state capitals, that concern us all, with outcomes we’ll be living with for years to come.]
In the meantime, the US Senate has picked up the DOE’s Million Solar Roof Initiative and has introduced the “Ten Million Solar Roofs and Ten Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act” by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) chairman of the Senate’s green jobs subcommittee, along with nine co-sponsors. This legislation will encourage the installation of 10 million solar power (PV) systems and 200,000 solar water heaters (SWH) on the rooftops of homes and businesses over the next decade. It would authorize rebates and other incentives to cover up to half the cost of the solar power and heating systems. Non-profit groups and state and local governments would also be eligible. [That is a big deal right there!] One of the legislation’s co-sponsors is Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-OR) so I will get in touch with his office to gather more insight into how this bill is proceeding and will report back herein. If passed, this bill will have a significant impact on the entire residential market.
China has embraced SHW technology - why are we so far behind?
I have seen what 200,000 solar water heaters on rooftops looks like – in China just last month. China’s policy is that all new construction will install solar thermal for hot water, and since everything in SE China is either new or about to be, I probably saw over a million of these SWH during my visit. Sitting proudly on every rooftop, small or large, single or multi-family buildings, every building had one or more. As I gazed out the bullet train’s window, I saw solar hot water heaters dotting the entire horizon. Miles and miles of them and it was beautiful to behold. Well, not really, especially through the haze, but the idea of it sure is – and there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be doing the same here in America. No brainer.
SHW as far as the eye can see
I’ve recently joined OSEIA and since I’ve received emails asking me for quotes on products and projects. I’ve received them from all over the country and usually not from one of the 25 major US solar cities. I pass these on, but do notice there are a number of potential solar residential projects popping up in places like Idaho, North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. My guess is these small installations are not getting counted or estimated in the data we see at NREL, or any of the big solar residential players like SolarCity, because they’re outside their radar.
Point is … there may be more solar rooftop business in America going on than we know/think, but it is so small and fragmented (as compared to utility or commercial scale) it just may not be noticed, yet.
While in China, I was asked by others what I thought the US rooftop market was going to install in 2011/2012 because they all had seen different numbers, ranging from 1-3 GW, and I told them my guess is about 1.5 GW, which is a conservative estimate by most accounts. This is the best any of us can do at this point. While I realize none of this information is illuminating, the solar residential market in America is what it is … and nobody is certain about the scale/timeline at this juncture.
With Chinese manufacturing economies of scale solar and the probable glut of modules on the market after Europe settles, the product/hard costs will certainly decline, so this barrier may be temporary … but the “soft cost” barriers in 50 states and municipalities are still entrenched. It will take a lot of effort to reduce these and create demand because I don’t see the federal gov’t taking much leadership in this area, unless the recent crisis over oil and Japan’s nuclear problem resonate in Congress.
This remains to be seen.
VIR* = Volumetric Incentive Rate is a performance-based incentive for solar electric (photovoltaics) eligible for commercial, industrial, and residential customers. Rates and payments vary depending on system size and geographic zone. Allocation varies.
For more info see http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=OR134F&re=1&ee=1
OREP* = Oregonians for Renewable Energy Policy was formed in December 2008 by a group of Oregonians wanting to take an active role in the transition from fossil fuels by producing solar energy in our neighborhoods.
For more info see http://www.oregonrenewables.com/
OSEIA* = Oregon chapter of the Solar Energy Industries Association a professional/trade association founded in 1981 to promote clean, renewable, solar technologies. OSEIA works with industry leaders, academic scholars, legislators, government, and non-profit agencies to advocate for solar technologies and raise awareness of its potential to help secure an affordable, reliable, and clean energy future.
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