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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Solar Gridlock

Mar 27, 2015 07:51PM ● By By Daralyn Chase

Initiatives are underway to make solar powered electricity competitive with traditional sources of electricity by the end of the decade. Dan Gardner, owner of Compass Solar, is encouraged as the cost of producing solar energy comes closer to offering real savings. He states that the cost of solar is just about on par with the cost of coal or oil now because of new technology to produce cheaper photovoltaic panels and declining installation costs.

The U.S. solar industry had a record-shattering year in 2014, accounting for a third of all new electric generating capacity installed. There is now enough solar power installed in the U.S. to power 4 million homes.

Solar accounted for 32 percent of new generating capacity in the U.S. last year, beating out both wind energy and coal for the second year in a row. Only natural gas constituted a greater share of new generating capacity. For the first time, each of the three major U.S. market segments—utility, commercial and residential—installed more than a gigawatt of photovoltaic (PV) power last year, according to a new report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Plus, more than half a gigawatt of residential solar installations came on line without any state incentives in 2014.

A new bill in Congress would lower the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean air standards after which Florida has modeled their own, and Gardner is concerned about current action that the Florida legislature is taking to follow suit. Some legislators argue that the present standards will cause conventional energy rates to skyrocket.

Gardner states, “Nothing’s changed in the belief that we either pay it now or pay it later. When you consider that coal-fired power plants generate over 140 million tons of toxic coal ash every year; enough to fill 426,780 Olympic swimming pools, we must consider what the cleanup cost of coal is now and in the future. We finally have the resources now that are on par with coal production, between solar panels and natural gas as a back-up.”

Gardner also supports the Floridians for Solar Choice (FSC), which would allow Floridians the choice to buy solar-generated electricity directly from a company other than a monopoly electric utility, which is currently against the law. “Local power companies would not be investing in solar energy themselves if they didn’t believe it was a viable resource, but making choices available is exactly what we need in order to bring more opportunity and lower costs to consumers,” he says. “We must urge our community to get behind this ballot because I believe it will open the door for more financing options.”


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