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Solar Industry On The Rise

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released data late last year which showed 684 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity was installed in the quarter ending October 2012, 44 percent more than in the third quarter of 2011.

During the first three quarters of the year, the solar industry added 1,992 megawatts of solar power, compared with 885 megawatts for all of 2011.

This increase brings installed photovoltaic capacity to 5.9 gigawatts, which could power slightly under one million average American homes, according to SEIA.

The surge in solar installations, and thus capacity, is attributed to not only lower costs of installation, especially for utilities, but also government support in the form of tax credits and state programs.

Cost dropped in all three sectors of the solar energy industry: utilities experienced a 30 percent drop in system installation, resulting in $2.40 per watt at present; residential prices dropped to $5.21 per watt from $5.45; commercial prices fell 13 cents to $4.18 per watt. Low-cost Chinese panels, which have caused some American solar manufacturers to close or downsize, have allowed for the decrease in installation prices.

However, due to the negative impact these imports had on the American solar manufacturing industry, the federal government imposed tariffs on the imports of Chinese solar products.

It is unfortunate that the American solar manufacturing industry was the victim of lower-cost solar energy installation projects, because ultimately it does not benefit the American economy to be losing jobs, but the hope is the tariffs imposed, along with a surging industry, will aid American solar manufacturing—“More Americans are seeing a value proposition in solar than ever before,” said SEIA president Rhone Resch.

While the solar industry is not productive enough as of yet to make large cuts to fossil fuel usage, the momentum and progression toward renewable energy is encouraging.

The 30 percent investment tax credit the federal government sponsors for solar energy is due to expire in 2017, which gives the industry plenty of time to bolster its economic advantages—its environmental advantages are already well known.

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