With the holiday season behind us and the U.S. workforce back in full throttle, major solar stakeholders laid out planning for 2017 and reported on solar’s record year this past week. A bullish future for renewables under Trump, strong words from President Obama on clean energy’s momentum and Tesla’s new solar-powered mega factory are the three headlines that are turning heads in this week’s Solar News report.
Renewables contribute more new energy in 2016 than natural gas
A new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed that 2016 was a major year for renewable energy in terms of new forms of electricity being added to the grid. Of the 24,000 megawatts of new energy capacity added last year, 60 percent came from solar and wind compared to just 32 percent from natural gas. The report also forecasts that growth will continue to be healthy for wind and solar – consumption of non-hydropower renewable sources (almost entirely solar and wind energy) is expected to jump by more than 10% in the next two years. Other notable takeaways from the report were the 5.6% growth in nuclear power as well as a surge in hydropower in the western U.S. due to melting snowpacks and seasonal rain.
President Obama calls clean energy momentum “irreversible”
In defense of his energy policy and in an effort to leave a resounding message for his successor, President Obama contributed an article to a scientific journal this past week to once again make the case for clean energy. The two-term U.S. president explained that the trend towards clean energy is happening across the globe and is crucial from both an environmental and economic perspective. In addition to the necessary emissions reductions that clean energy technologies contribute to the global environment, the clean energy revolution has changed the way America’s job market is structured. Drawing on China’s dramatic commitments to renewable energy in addition to the U.S. reliance on the wind and solar industries for new jobs, the outgoing president wrote to assure the world that the succeeding administration cannot reverse the momentum of clean energy.
Tesla will power Nevada Gigafactory with massive solar array
There has always been significant hype around Tesla’s massive Gigafactory, the mecca for renewable expansion where much of the clean energy behemoth’s new car models and energy storage products will be manufactured in years to come. This past week that excitement was strengthened when a report from Electrek revealed that the Gigafactory will run entirely on solar. Unsurprisingly, the massive rooftop installation will be administered by SolarCity, Tesla’s recent acquisition. The Gigafactory will run on the 70 megawatt solar PV system, which will also hold the world record for largest rooftop solar installation. Tesla will need the power – the Gigafactory is expected to warrant over 6,500 new hires as Tesla quickly scales up its production to match its impressive new product line.
Following Trump meeting, Musk expects bullish future for renewables
With the Presidential inauguration of Donald Trump just a week away, many renewable stakeholders are anxious about the next administration’s expected energy policies, which will likely champion fossil fuels. However, one major clean energy industry leader is working to alleviate those anxieties: Elon Musk. A new addition to Donald Trump’s technology advisory board, Musk, along with other leading entrepreneurs, met with Trump in December and had reassuring words to say about the next President’s outlook on renewables.
Perhaps this optimism should not be a shock when one considers that Trump’s forward self characterization as a “jobs president” is aligned with Musk’s prestigious clean energy venture, Tesla. As a whole, Tesla already employs 25,000 people in the U.S. alone and will contribute 10,000 new American jobs as the company expands into the solar industry and rolls out new product lines for its electric vehicle trade. Musk may be a savior for clean tech in the U.S. because of one clear cut reality: he is both an environmental advocate and a world-renowned entrepreneur that is respected for his proven track record of creating innovative products that can turn a profit and create jobs while also protecting the environment.