Why the sun is rising on commercial solar energy

In recent years, the commercial use of solar energy has evolved from pilot programs and public showplaces to practical full-scale implementations. Declining cost has been a great boost. Most states have seen a 9% cost reduction since 2016. Their average per watt cost is likely to be within forty cents of the 2017 national average, $3.16.

Solar panel system costs continue to fall. Several factors are driving that.

Increased supply

For 2017, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) project 11% growth in power generation from solar and wind farms along with other renewable energy sources. One gigawatt (GW) is enough to power a medium-sized city, and the EIA reported that almost 22 GW capacity had been created by the end of 2016. They estimate that to grow to 32 GW during 2018. That would equate to 1.5% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2018.

More efficient equipment

The latest, most efficient equipment is likely to have the latest price tag. Even if that price is higher, gains in the amount of energy produced per hour of sunlight can more than offset any added cost. The warrant for that equipment may be stronger as well.

Legislative changes

The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that 26 states have active community solar projects. Legislatures from Washingon state to Nevada, and from Minnesota to Florida are debating how solar systems are funded, where they can be installed, and what can be done with the surplus energy they generate. Last November, Florida voters approved a statewide amendment beneficial to commercial property tax rules. The amendment was signed into law in June, 2017.

New technologies

A great resource for solar energy development was literally unearthed in 2009. Perovskite, a calcium titanium oxide mineral, can trim processing costs while providing features unavailable in silicon solar installations. They weigh less, are more flexible, and can be semi-transparent. Issues of toxicity, higher cost, and shorter lifespan are now being addressed in laboratory studies. Their light-to-energy conversion efficiency has improved from under four percent in 2009 to over 20 percent in 2017. This makes perovskite a likely resource for electric vehicle batteries, commercial solar installations, and more.

Alexa Stone
LEED AP, Sustainable Facility Professional, Envision Sustainability Professional - - Alexa has more than 25 years of experience in sustainable and Smart Cities development. Her strategic planning work has served local, state, and federal government, higher education, and private industry. Alexa founded ecoPreserve in 2009 as a team of 3 and has grown the company to over a dozen of the brightest sustainability and project management professionals in the industry.
Alexa Stone


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