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Solar Declared King

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Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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The International Energy Agency (IEA) has declared solar the “new king” of electricity.  Their argument is, while renewable technologies as a whole are poised for rapid growth over the coming decades, solar will be “at the centre of this new constellation of electricity generation technologies.”  The industry reflects those predictions with multiple projects in various stages of development and implementation.  

An aggressive expansion into utility-scale solar by Public Service Company of New Mexico will replace all of the power PNM will lose when the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station (SJGS) closes in June 2022.   A research brief published by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis states, "Because PNM is one of the largest electricity market players in the region, its shift will influence other electricity providers in the West and the Southwest, many of whom are facing the same market and policy pressures as PNM.” Karl Cates, an IEEFA analyst and author of the brief, continued,  "It will be seen industrywide as a fresh indication--on top of many others--of where regional and national energy markets are quickly moving.”  One reason for this cosmic domination is solar photovoltaic (PV) is now consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most countries.  Globally, its capacity has already increased 20-fold in the past ten years and will triple in the next ten years.  

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In the small town of Fairfield, Utah, three major solar projects have been proposed. NextEra Energy Resources, just named the largest energy company in the United States, having surpassed Exxon Mobil in market cap, hopes to sell the power to Rocky Mountain Power.  “We will continue to produce agriculture, but there are locations that are prime for solar, and we want to participate in that,” said Farmland Reserves’ director of land and government affairs, G. Wesley Quinton.  Other utility-scale solar projects in the works or seeking development are Clenera, a Boise-based solar developer operating as Parasol Renewable Energy, The Faraday-Goshen Valley solar farm, Maxwell Solar and Strata Solar.  Most residents want Fairfield to retain its small-town feel but they would rather look at a solar farm than a subdivision. Resident Ronnie Wilson concedes, “A solar farm might be a better neighbor than subdivisions.”

Despite the current pandemic, renewable energy sources continue to expand their share of the nation’s energy production, consumption and electricity generation.  For the period January-July, solar-generated electricity expanded by 22.2%.  Solar is making strides but would you say it is king?  Dr. Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director concluded, “Electrification, massive efficiency gains and behavioural changes all play roles, as does accelerated innovation across a wide range of technologies from hydrogen electrolysers to small modular nuclear reactors. No part of the energy economy can lag behind, as it is unlikely that any other part would be able to move at an even faster rate to make up the difference.” 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 20, 2020

Too often the forecast about solar taking a lead in the energy future is dismissed as wishful thinking of the overly-optimistic outlook from those who stand to gain from a solar boom, but having this conclusion come from IEA-- an intergovernmental council that doesn't have a dog in the fight-- is a powerful statement. 

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