The U.S. solar industry is booming — and it isn’t afraid of Trump - Washington Post, by Chelsea Harvey
The U.S. solar industry experienced its biggest boom yet this year, with a record-breaking 4,143 megawatts (or million watts) of solar generating capacity added in the third quarter of 2016, according to a new report. And the fourth quarter is on track to surpass it, with continued growth expected through the rest of the decade.
The optimistic new report, published by the Solar Energy Industries Association and market analysis firm GTM Research, comes at a time of mounting uncertainty for the future of renewable energy and environmental policy in the United States. President-elect Donald Trump has recently sparked major concern about among environmentalists with his nominations for heads of the federal energy and environment agencies.
Last week, Trump named Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has expressed skepticism about human-caused climate change, as his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is suing the EPA over its proposed Clean Power Plan and regulations aimed at curbing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
And Tuesday, Trump announced former Texas governor Rick Perry, who also has expressed doubt about climate change, as his choice for secretary of the Department of Energy. While wind power in Texas did expand under Perry’s tenure as governor, he also said in 2015 that he opposed extending the federal tax credit for wind, preferring instead to leave such decisions to the states.
For now, the new report is assuming no major changes in the pace of wind and solar expansion over the next few years as a result of the presidential transition.
“We’re always assuming business as usual in terms of national politics,” saidTom Kimbis, interim president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The new report finds that total installation in the third quarter of 2016 constituted a 99 percent increase over the second quarter, and a 191 percent increase over the third quarter of 2015, with one new megawatt coming online every 32 minutes on average. These gains were mostly the product of additions in the utility-scale solar sector, the report notes.