With a historic Super Tuesday behind us and the madness of an NCAA tournament just a week away, March has officially arrived – and with it comes major solar momentum. Forecasts of a solar takeover in 2016, legislation to mandate rooftop solar in San Francisco and a world-record solar achievement by MIT’s inventive labs are the top headlines from this week’s Solar Energy News.
Washington Post and EIA Agree: 2016 Will Be the Year of Solar
New data released this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) indicate that solar’s significant momentum will continue to strengthen in 2016. EIA forecasts that 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar will be installed in 2016, significantly more than the expected 8 GW of new natural gas capacity. When installations from solar’s rooftop residential market are factored in, the overall projection is that solar will virtually blow natural gas out of the water, leading the Washington Post to predict an “unforgettable year” for solar. According to the EIA, “2016 will be the first year in which utility-scale solar additions exceed additions from any other energy source.” #YearofSolar
MIT Announces World’s Thinnest Solar Cell
Big news came out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this week: a group of scientists have created a solar cell that is 50 times thinner than a human hair and 1,000 times thinner than a traditional glass-based photovoltaic cell. The dynamic cell is made with a versatile, easily-attached plastic called “parylene” and can generate 400 times as much power as a traditional solar cell. The new cell could be easily stitched onto clothing and could eventually lead to a wearable solar market.
Solar Could Become Mandatory Requirement in San Francisco
San Francisco’s Supervisor Scott Wiener made headlines this week after introducing new legislation that would require all new residential and commercial buildings in the city to install solar panels on their roofs. Wiener has a goal in mind with this legislation: to support the city’s commitment to meet 100 percent of its electricity demand with renewable energy. “In a dense, urban environment, we need to be smart and efficient about how we maximize the use of our space to achieve goals like promoting renewable energy and improving our environment,” said the Supervisor. The proposal already has the support of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.
PG&E Surpasses 2015 Renewable Portfolio Standard Goal
California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced this week that 29.5 percent of its retail electricity sales were sourced from renewable resources last year. That is significantly more than the 2015 target in the Golden State’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires that 23.3 percent of electricity in the state is sourced from renewables. PG&E has said it will have no trouble meeting California’s 33 percent RPS goal by 2020.
PG&E isn’t the only utility drawing attention with audacious plans to surpass RPS benchmarks – Colorado’s Xcel Energy has revealed a major focus on solar development in its 2017 Colorado Renewable Energy Plan. The Centennial State utility is actively working to expand and improve its state solar programs and, like PG&E, aims to be a leading utility in the renewable energy sector.