Taking Stock of Solar Power During this Summer’s Heat Wave

Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of it all.  Despite daily reminders of how our climate-energy balance is growing increasingly out of whack, we continue to make short-term energy decisions that avoid fixing the problem and only make matters worse. 

Take, for example, the back-to-back decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court to strip the EPA of its authority to regulate power plant greenhouse gas emissions, and the rejection of the compromise climate bill in what’s left of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.  Now, the only recourse left for the White House is to take extraordinary executive action.  

A graphic that shows a heat dome cycling above United States

Is It Hot Enough for You?

Meanwhile, 2022 is turning out to be the summer of soaring gas and electricity prices and record global temperatures.  While local gasoline prices have been abating recently, record heat waves are still spreading across the globe.  Giant “heat domes” have set up in Asia, Europe and North America, setting all-time temperature records from Tokyo to London, while pushing local utility generating systems to their limits.  

Most concerning is the persistence of these awful heat waves.  Not only are they staying warmer through the night, when most heat-related deaths occur; they also are extending now for weeks or even months at a time.  In the United States, some cities have already exceeded the number of 90- or 100-degree days they normally experience all summer.  Above-average temperatures are now expected to persist at least through October from coast to coast.   

Stick With the Solar Path

It’s at times like these we need to keep our eyes on the prize.  We’ve already moved well down the path of a clean energy future that fights inflation and climate change at the same time.  We just need to keep moving on and step up the pace!

While the global pandemic and war in Ukraine have created supply constraints across most industries, the price impacts on renewables have not been as severe as on other energy sources.  In 2022, the price gap between wind and solar (generally the lowest-cost options in most developed grids) and coal and gas has actually widened.  In fact, wind and solar have never been cheaper, on a relative basis, compared to gas-fired power.  

Between wind and solar, solar is still the smaller contributor on the global stage – but it has a faster growth rate.  Since 2007, the installed capacity of solar power has grown from 22 gigawatts to about 240 GW expected by the end of this year. That works out to a compound annual growth rate of 34.5%, which means it takes barely more than two years to double the amount of annually installed solar capacity.  In 2022, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts another 17 GW of solar capacity additions in the U.S. electric power sector.  This compares with just 6 GW for wind power, reflecting the expiration of a federal wind production tax credit at the end of 2021.

Looking out to the end of this decade, BloombergNEF projects a total of 204 GW of utility-scale solar installations and 83 GW of small-scale photovoltaic additions will be added across the country, compared to 115 GW of wind power.  And by 2035, under the most aggressive decarbonization scenarios, global installations of solar power could peak out at four times today’s annual rate.  While that may sound like a lot, it’s only half of solar’s compound growth rate over the last 15 years. 

The Power Is in Our Hands – Now More than Ever

Across our growing political divide, most Americans agree they want cleaner, more reliable and affordable energy choices.  With the rapid growth of EVs, solar now offers the complete package to lock in decades of energy savings at home and at the gas pump. 

Still, if recent events have taught us anything, we can’t count on government institutions to solve the climate crisis for us.  Increasingly, the power is in our hands to assume this vital task for ourselves.  And to the extent that government support still matters, don’t forget that a 22% federal tax credit remains in effect for solar and battery installations before it expires at the end of 2023.

So, now more than ever, it’s time to dial up more solar and turn down the heat!  Solaflect Energy is your home energy management partner.  We help you install clean and affordable solar electricity and home battery systems for a more resilient and climate-friendly future.  Contact us for more information by clicking here or call us at (802) 649-3700.

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