THE MOTLEY FOOL

3 Big Records in Solar Energy This Week

This week alone, there were three major solar energy records announced, and they show just how fast this industry is growing and taking its place as a staple in energy.

1) U.S. installations hit a record…again
According to GTM Research’s recently released stats, the U.S. solar industry installed 7.3 GW of new capacity in 2015, up 14% from a year earlier. This is nearly 20-fold from just 385 MW installed in 2009 and was the first year solar has topped new natural gas capacity additions.

2) First Solar efficiency
One of the ways U.S. solar companies are beating their Chinese rivals is by producing better solar panels. On that front, First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) has arguably made more progress than anyone in the world. On Tuesday, management said it achieved another efficiency record of 22.1% for a CdTe solar cell.

3) SunPower efficiency
Speaking of the importance of efficiency, SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) announced that its X22 panels reached an efficiency record of 22.8%. This is similar to a preliminary announcement it had in November, but it’s now been confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Remember When Everyone Was Using Solar Energy?

For 30 years, the technology that could help save the world has been in the hands of children. Solar calculators were such a routine part of math class from the mid-1980s onward that they barely warrant any surprise or wonder today, even though a mostly solar-powered future is still decades away, if it happens at all.

So why did solar end up in calculators long before it appeared elsewhere in daily life, and why does solar still seem so cutting edge today when we see it on houses, theme parks, and combination recycling bins/wi-fi routers?

BLOOMBERG BUSINESS

Buffett: Wind and Solar Power Competition Challenges Utilities

Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said subsidized wind and solar power in the U.S. may erode the economics of electric utilities that care little for efficiency.

“The joke in the industry was that a utility was the only business that would automatically earn more money by redecorating the boss’s office,” Buffett wrote Saturday in his annual letter to shareholders. “Some utilities ran things accordingly. That’s all changing.”

Utilities across the country have been grappling with how to integrate wind farms and solar plants into their systems and business models. Cheap power from large-scale renewables has undercut the profitability of conventional electricity generation from coal and nuclear sources. In addition, rooftop solar panels have sapped sales for power distribution companies.

BOSTON GLOBE

Solar advocates tell lawmakers inaction clouds future of sector

A group of local solar power developers and advocates urged the state Monday to promptly extend programs that have nurtured solar power in Massachusetts, warning that continued uncertainty over the rules could stall the industry’s momentum. At a forum in Acton, solar supporters sounded a note of urgency about the need for the state to expand net metering credits and solar renewable energy certificates, both of which are at or facing state caps.

“As an employer, nothing scares me more — I have 35 people that I may have to put out on the street,” said Mark Durrenberger, president of Hudson-based New England Clean Energy and one of about 50 people who turned out for the forum at the Acton Public Safety Center.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has 8+ years of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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