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U.S. Solar 2018: A Year-End Review

U.S. Solar 2018: A Year-End Review

As we enter the New Year, it’s important to look back over the struggles and successes of the previous year. And what a year it was for the solar industry! Despite a few major challenges, the U.S. solar sector stayed strong and made significant progress. Much of that forward motion is due to continually increasing public support for alternative energy technology and environmental stewardship.

Let’s take a look back at what U.S. solar accomplished in 2018:

Greater Public Awareness of Climate Change

Due to a number of high profile natural disasters, including Hurricanes Michael and Florence and the Camp and Carr wildfires in California, the threat posed by climate change was a prominent part of our national discourse. While our government struggles to take meaningful action, consumers have begun to vote with their dollars, making it clear that they believe clean energy sources are vital to our future.

As a result, the solar market is growing in geographic areas of the country that have previously been challenging to reach. California still leads the nation in solar adoption, but Florida and Texas have emerged as major markets as well. Fast Company recently reported on a program called DeepSolar, which used AI to scan satellite images and tally the number of panels in the United States. It found “1.47 million rooftop solar systems or larger solar plants in 48 states,” a much greater figure than previously reported.

Domestic Solar Manufacturing on the Rise

The tariffs imposed by the Trump administration did encourage domestic solar manufacturers. As PV Magazine reports, “3.9 GW of new module manufacturing capacity... is currently underway in five new factories, as well as a few hundred megawatts more in several smaller factories” across the country. They note that while tariffs were a motivating factor, plans for many of these factories were underway before that decision complicated the U.S. solar market.

While domestic solar module manufacturing is increasing, it is unclear how profitable it will be in the future as the Section 201 tariffs continue their yearly decline. Nevertheless, consumers who wish to purchase American-made solar modules despite the additional expense now have greater options to choose from.

Solar + Storage Continues to Gain Traction

As we predicted this time last year, Solar + Storage systems were a major source of growth in 2018. The residential energy storage market grew 9x in the first quarter of the year and 10x in Q2, spurred in part by initiatives in states such as California and Hawaii. The outlook is so strong that Tesla’s Elon Musk predicted “300-400% of ‘mad growth’ in energy storage in 2019.”

A report released by Energy Sage early in 2018 found that “74% of customers shopping for solar on their online solar marketplace were considering energy storage,” indicating that consumers who are educated about battery options consider them a natural extension of their interest in adopting solar power. The outlook for battery storage is strong going into 2019.

Solar Prices Still Falling

Perhaps the best news for solar consumers is that, despite the ups and downs of the past year, solar panel and battery options continue to increase and prices continue to fall. PV Magazine writes that “Solar power electricity generation pricing is the cheapest electricity you can get every single day at 12 noon in many places across the United States.” Because of this, even utility companies are coming around to embracing solar energy as part of their plans for the future, especially those who are mandated to buy power from the cheapest source.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) notes that “higher-voltage inverter designs, lower inverter prices, and higher module efficiencies contributed to cost reductions” in 2018, despite reasonable fears that solar tariffs would drive up prices. For residential and commercial consumers (and even utility companies, it seems) the choice is clear - solar power is the cheapest and most reliable way to mitigate our negative impact on our environment and save money on energy bills.

The Future is Solar

After a sometimes tumultuous year, it’s satisfying to see that the U.S. solar industry is still going strong. At Solar Design Studio, so is our commitment to helping consumers source, design, and install the most efficient and effective solar installations possible. We know that solar power is the future of energy production and we’re grateful to clients past, present, and future for joining us there.

Contact us today to begin your solar journey in 2019!

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What Our Clients Are Saying

I have researched adding PV to my home for several years and have met with several PV providers in the KC area and they tend to fall into two broad categories, the new and low budget operators who got into this to ride the wave and are not that knowledgeable, and the commercial providers who have little interest in working with a homeowner and are geared to providing a much larger system where some economy of scale must come into play. Both my wife and I are architects and we wanted something different and it was challenging to find someone who was interested in doing something out of the ordinary. Neither or those types were interested in working with us as we were trying to create something a bit different. they each wanted to sell us their pre-configured solutions.

 

Fortunately we found Bob Solger. He has been a delight to work with and is incredibly knowledgeable and responsive. We wanted to create a solar carport that would provide cover and protection for our cars, but would also provide shade over part of our patio. In essence, the big idea was to create an outdoor pavilion, when, if we wanted to entertain we could move the cars out of the way and have a large covered area for an outdoor gathering. We had selected the Lumos brand of solar panels as they have a very clean look and are partially transparent so some light filters through the panels creating a mottled light pattern on the ground, similar to the shading from a tree. In addition, the system is set up to hide the majority of the connecting wires in the support beams so when you look up at the underside of the PV roof you see a very clean look. Bob recognized our goal and worked with us to ensure the project’s success. Bob identified a structural engineer to design an elegant support structure and found a fabricator to build it affordably. Finally he connected us with a contracting team to clear the space, provide the footings, retaining walls, and pad, who were every bit as careful with everything as you would hope. They were amazingly accommodating to every request and understood that there were a lot of competing challenges that needed to be resolved so we could fit this all in to a very tight location and make it look like it belongs.

 

The bottom line is that it all turned out better than we could have hoped and while it did cost more than the low ball bids received from some of the low budget operators, it was less than the commercially focused suppliers, and more importantly we got the design we wanted and a well-constructed PV carport that will give us great delight for years to come. The best part is of course the savings on our electric bill, which thus far has been averaging around $200/month. So not only do we have a new carport and entertainment patio that our neighbors have been stopping by and admiring (which given that we live in the older Brookside neighborhood and our PV carport is quite modern, we were much relieved) but, our electric bills have been in the under $10/month range.

 

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Bob and his knowledge and team for helping to create an amazing PV carport for us. I’m sure you would be delighted with whatever you engage him to help you with.

Dev & Sue Malik

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