Solar Hot in States both Red and Blue

February 24, 2022

PV Magazine:

Legislation passed five months ago in Illinois has spurred more than 2,000 solar installations, or enough to power 30,000 homes. To meet workforce needs, new job training programs have been launched, and hiring expanded.

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (SB 2408), passed last September, is an energy package that sets the state on a trajectory toward 100% clean energy by 2050. The law also provides immediate steps that help accelerate the renewable energy transition that’s already underway in Illinois. Among the many provisions is $34 million in funding for a grant program to provide seed capital to emerging disadvantaged businesses; $1 million for the Jobs and Justice Fund, a nonprofit “green bank” that will infuse disadvantaged businesses with capital; $21 million for a 16 clean energy workforce training hubs across the state.

Prior to the passing of the act, residential solar installations were down nearly 90% in Q2 last year compared to 2020, as the state was in “solar incentive limbo”. Just 313 small rooftop solar projects were completed statewide in Q2 2021, compared to 2,908 a year earlier. In fact, SEIA ranked Illinois 21st in solar installations in 2021, after holding at #13 the previous year. But what a difference legislation makes. Data from the Illinois Power Agency shows that:

  • 8,052 waitlisted solar projects have moved forward and are expected to be approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission this month.
  • 250MW of new community solar projects have been approved– when completed, these projects will allow an estimated 35,000 families to lower their electric bills without installing solar panels.

A survey of solar businesses in Illinois found that:

  • More than 2,000 rooftop and community solar projects have already been installed and are generating enough electricity to power more than 30,000 homes.
  • Illinois businesses will complete more than 8,400 rooftop and community solar projects by the end of 2022.
  • Businesses are hiring rapidly and the workforce in the state is expected to increase 47% by the end of this year.

Bloomberg:

An economic boom in Texas—fueled by people and corporate giants relocating to America’s oil and gas hub—is sparking a surge in solar projects in the state.

record amount of solar capacity is planned for the Lone Star State one year after a deadly winter storm crippled its electrical grid and threatened to undermine a clean-energy boom. Texas will see more solar generation come online this year than any other state in the country, according to Energy Information Administration data.

The solar surge is a testament to the mounting appeal of sun-based electricity to power daytime operations of companies. Texas is expected to see unprecedented electricity demand growth during the next two years to satisfy the needs of enterprises flocking to the state—including crypto miners. Much of that demand will be met with new generation from renewable energy sources, even if not everything planned gets built.

The state’s grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, expects crypto mining alone to account for several gigawatts of new demand in that period. Peak power demand next year will be 7.7% above 2021 levels, Ercot data show.

Some oil and natural gas operators in Texas already rely on solar power, and the sun’s energy may prove useful for the flurry of big companies including Tesla Inc., Oracle Corp., and Charles Schwab Corp. that have relocated headquarters to the state in the past two years. Still, much of Texas today relies on power produced from natural gas and wind, followed by coal and nuclear. Solar accounted for 3.8% of the generating capacity of the state’s power grid in December.

For solar developers, the motivation is clear: Texas is a market that boasts the fastest growth in power demand in the U.S., has cheap land and abundant sunshine. There are 106 gigawatts of solar developments lined up with Ercot, according to BloombergNEF, Bloomberg’s energy data and analysis unit. A gigawatt is enough to power about 200,000 Texas homes.

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