10. World’s largest landfill converted into NYC’s biggest solar plant
On November 25, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that a 10 MW solar facility would be installed on Freshkills Park on Staten Island, once the world’s largest landfill. Sun Edison will install 35,000 panels covering 47 acres in the park. In the same move, the city announced that they will be expanding the park by 1,500 acres.
9. SolarCity’s securitization of solar systems
So this may seem technical and boring, but it’s actually hugely important for the solar industry. In November, SolarCity announced that they would be offering $54 million of securities backed by their solar installations with a 4.8% rate of return. This isn’t new, it already happens for home mortgages, life insurance and auto loans, but it’s the first time it has happened for solar, and other companies are expected to follow. It will benefit the industry by providing cheaper capital for solar developers so that they can continue to install systems to match exploding demand for solar.
8. Mosaic launches the first investment platform for people to invest directly in solar projects, sees $5 million invested
Mosaic released its first solar projects for investment in January of this year, all of which sold out in the first 24 hours. This is the first time a platform has enabled people to invest in solar projects and earn a return on their investments. Since then, over 2,500 people have invested over $5 million in solar projects through the platform. Using this momentum, they’ve teamed up with Actor Mark Ruffalo to run a campaign encouraging people to Put Solar On It in 2014. (Full disclosure: I also write for the Mosaic blog).
7. Green Tea Coalition / TUSK
Some unlikely groups formed this year in support of solar energy. In Georgia, Green Tea Coalition, an alliance that includes members of the Sierra Club, Occupy Atlanta, NAACP, and the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots. The Green Tea Coalition is fighting back against a campaign run by the Koch Brothers’ funded American’s For Prosperity, which is pushing to block renewables in the state of Georgia. The Tea Party activists in the green tea coalition don’t see any contradiction between the free market and renewables, in fact they believe renewables are a way to break up the energy monopoly, increase choice and energy security, and protect the environment. TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed), led by Barry Goldwater Jr., is a group in Arizona with a similar philosophy, that helped fight utilities trying to charge a heavy fee on customers with solar panels.
6. Walmart reaches a solar generating capacity (89 MW) that is more than the combined capacities of 38 states
While Wal-Mart may be shadowed in controversy for an array of issues, they do shine on clean energy. Numerous large corporations including Ikea, Costco, Google and Apple have all made strides to invest and install clean energy, saving them money and improving their images as environmentally friendly companies. Wal-Mart is the leading corporation in the country that is putting solar on it, with 89 MW of installed solar capacity, enough to power 22,250 homes. The perspective granting fact that has everyone buzzing about the retail goliath is that their solar capacity now exceeds that of 38 states combined.
5. Germany generates a record-breaking 5.1 TWh of energy from solar panels in July 2013
Earlier this year, on a sunny July day, Germany set the world record for most solar energy produced in one day. Throughout the day, the country’s more than 1 million solar systems produced 5.1 terawatt hours of solar energy. (wow! That sounds like a lot, but I have no idea what a terawatt hour is) According to the EPA 5.1 TWh of electricity is the equivalent of offsetting 466,675 gallons of gasoline or 100,000 trees planted. For more perspective, the U.S.’s record for solar generation is 0.76 TWh. And Germany gets about as much sun as Alaska.
4. Solar keeps getting cheaper
One of the biggest stories in clean energy over the last couple years has been the astounding drop in costs for solar panels. Prices have dropped over 99% from what they were in the 1970s and continued to drop this year. Panel costs were 60% lower in 2013 than they were in 2011. Due to the decline in solar panel prices, over a dozen international markets have reached grid parity by the end of this year.
3. Construction of Ivanpah, world’s largest CSP plant, is finished
What sprawls 4,000 acres, is 459 feet tall, costs $2.2 billion, and produces enough power for 200,000 homes? The world’s largest solar power plant. Named “Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System,” the plant started feeding electricity to the grid on September 24, 2013. A literal beacon of light (the system works by concentrating the sun’s energy at a tall pillar using 200,000 mirrors), the plant isn’t uncontroversial. The project is constructed in land occupied by an endangered species of desert tortoise, angering many conservationists. The project was also partially funded by the same loan guarantee program as the infamous Solyndra.
2. Solar panels on the White House
In the midst of the OPEC oil embargo in 1979, Jimmy Carter installed 32 panels on the White House roof saying “A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of the road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest adventures ever undertaken by the American People.” President Reagan had the panels removed in 1986. In 2010, Obama made a verbal commitment to re-install solar panels on the White House roof, calling for a reinvigorated dedication to sustainability. After visible public pressure from websites like Sungevity’s solaronthewhitehou
1. U.S. passes 10 GW installed solar capacity milestone
In July of 2013, the U.S. passed the 10 GW milestone of installed solar PV capacity. The only other countries in the 10 GW club are Germany, Italy and China. And it doesn’t look like we’re slowing down; predictions have the U.S. at 17 GW installed by the end of 2014, which is an 80% growth over 18 months. 10 GW is enough to power roughly 7.5 million homes, meaning millions of people across the country are getting clean energy from the sun! Japan also joined the 10 GW club later in the year, after a booming year for solar resulting from a transition from Nuclear following Fukushima.