Oil Gives Solar a Moment in the Sun

You know you’ve arrived when the bigshots pay attention.

For photovoltaics, that means allowing the Solar Energy Industries Association to carve out some space in the American Petroleum Institute’s new State of American Energy Report (PDF). Both took pleasure, and perhaps some pain, to note the sunshine’s sector meteoric rise for the record. And while the report began with the API’s hopeful chapter “America’s Petroleum Renaissance,” the market reality is that cratering cost of oil will spell its doom.

“Solar energy is now more affordable than ever,” explained the SEIA’s more-realistic chapter, “Solar in America Shines Bright” — which, it should be also noted, had to patiently wait until nuclear and hydropower gave their testimonials. “National blended average system prices have dropped 53 percent since 2010. Today, the solar industry employs 143,000 Americans and pumps more than $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy.”

We can thank “smart and effective public policies, such as the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Energy Standards (RES)” for this private-sector bloom, explained the API’s report. That includes substantial advances led by solar leader California, whose progressive governor Jerry Brown celebrated the new year with a historic plan to slash oil and gas transportation in half over the next 15 years.

These and other examples of national solar leadership, the API report should’ve added, are destabilizing the petroleum renaissance in real-time. But not as much as global warming itself.

“Few things threaten America’s future prosperity more than climate change,” the SEIA’s chapter begins. The easiest way to beat it, explained a concurrent report published in Nature, is to basically stop drilling for oil on Earth. Meanwhile, the SEIA noted, solar power has kept 20 million metric tons of carbon in the Earth where it belongs, ending its chapter with the International Energy Agency prediction that by 2050, solar could be Earth’s leading power play.

With only a few pages to make solar’s case against last century’s American energy industry, the SEIA quickly noted the growing thousands of jobs, schools, homes and corporations that are turning on a system every 2.5 minutes. API president Jack Gerard may have called for “increased oil and natural gas production” in the API’s press release, but when it comes to exponential energy, photovoltaics will still be standing when the petroleum renaissance burns up ahead of schedule.

This article appeared at Solar Energy

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