Saturday, November 5, 2011

Solar shining brightly in US and NJ, not so much in PA

Despite the Solyndra collapse that has tarnished solar energy, the industry has grown into
"a major economic force" with a job base that expanded 6.8% the past year, nearly 10 times faster than the overall economy, industry representatives told CNN earlier this week.

The solar business is now a $6 billion industry, up 300% from 2006, said officials with the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit affiliated with solar energy industry.

Solar's success is no surprise in New Jersey

The encouraging environmental news won't come as a surprise to anyone living in New Jersey.  It seems that almost  every week brings the announcement of another significant-sized solar pane installation on the rooftop of a municipal building, school,
or at a commercial or industrial facility.

A good deal of that is due to state-stimulus programs which have made solar panel installations cost effective. And, once the system is up and running, energy savings
are often dramatic.

The solar industry is concerned, however, about maintaining its impressive growth in the Garden State, as the addition of solar energy capacity has eroded the value of the state's Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs).

Key members of the state legislature are moving on bills designed to bolster the program by increasing demand for the credits, encouraging longer-term financing, and facilitating greater participation by utility companies in solar projects.

Clouds form over Pennsylvania's solar industry

The alternative energy's prospects are less bullish in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Sunshine program, passed in 2008, provided $100 million in solar rebates to homeowners and businesses to install such systems. That led to a boom, but the program now has only a few millions dollars left, and the state has no plans to renew it.

Karen Foltz, a spokeswoman for Pittsburgh-based Vox Energy Solutions, said the current climate for solar businesses in the state is hardly welcoming and she puts the blame on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett..

"He is so against renewable energy, it's a crime," Foltz said, adding that she believes Corbett is "100% backed" by Marcellus Shale companies who see solar energy as a competitor. Foltz also claimed that tax credits for oil and gas exploration dwarf what's given to solar firms.

Nationwide, solar is looking bright.  With 100,237 jobs as of August, solar employers expect their workforce to grow 24% next year, according to the foundation's National Solar Jobs Census 2011, completed in partnership with BW Research Partnership's Green LMI Consulting division and Cornell University.

"It's great news," said Andrea Luecke, executive director of the Solar Foundation. "Despite a struggling economy and the worst recession since the Depression and despite the Solyndra debacle, the industry is experiencing record-breaking trade numbers, record-breaking installed capacity, and record-breaking private investment."

Related:
Despite Fears of a Crash, Solar Sector Remains White Hot
Critics say Pa. losing solar jobs as state subsidy ends
New Jersey mayor welcomes solar farm over housing

In New Jersey, energy is the big new environmental story

NJ towns (finally) taking advantage of energy savings

Google making home solar panel installations less costly

Investor Peter Nieh on future of U.S. solar panel industry



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