By Scott Cramer
The solar industry has lived up to its ‘solar coaster’ moniker in 2018, but this bodes well for the consumers and solar companies willing to grid themselves into the energy mold of the future, and likely 2019 trends are proof.
Total Solar Installations in the US Will Increase, Again
Although residential installations are at a standstill, solar as a whole is climbing. So far the US has installed 4.7 gigawatts of solar power in 2018. Utility-scale solar has hit over 1 GW of solar for the past 11 consecutive quarters. To-date, utility-scale solar represents 55 percent of 2018 installed solar capacity.
China’s Poly-crystalline Overstock and the World Market
Although solar panel prices continue to fall, Green Tech Media predicts China will decrease poly-crystalline further. This is due to America’s importation tax on foreign panels as well as China’s demand decrease. China has enforced installation caps and feed-in-tariffs that will decrease their solar installations. This means that China’s surplus solar will most likely drop in price. Which will in-turn force competition prices to drop in order to compete. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) expects solar will decline by 10-15 percent in 2019.
Alarmist Overreactions to the 201 Trade Case Tariff Will Further Magnify Missed Opportunities
The solar tariff on imports has postponed many utility-scale projects, at the loss of the investors: Many of whom overlook the fact that solar panel costs only account for a fraction of the total cost of going solar and operating a solar business, provided the company is financially healthy. If you are getting residential solar, this is an even smaller fraction of the total cost. Although the tariff is currently 30 percent, it is set to decrease by 5 percent each year over the next 4 years. This means that although this price increase will affect the cost, it won’t be catastrophic, and it will make up for the slight Federal Tax Credit declines.
Each year comes with new challenges and changes. Taking a look at what to expect will help you be better prepared.
Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Will Take the Forefront In State Legislatures and Utility Companies
State renewable energy incentives are a little more tricky. Which state you are in and what solar policies they have in place make a large difference. Make sure to look into your state and utility incentives before you purchase solar. Federal and State tax incentives represent a large part of solar affordability. As of 2018, the federal solar tax credit covers 30 percent of solar installation costs.
Because of the ITC extension, this tax credit will continue to cover 30 percent in 2019. This is a major win for individuals that want solar. The bad news is that this credit will decrease to 26 percent in 2020. And it is set to continue to decrease until 2022. After this point, only commercial installs will get 10 percent. So consumers should act fast to get grandfathered into existing incentive tiers.
The Widespread Adoption of Solar Plus Products
By solar plus, we mean any technology that extends, redefines, or enhances the existing solar modules on businesses or residences.
How Solar Backup is Being Used
The main issue with solar is that when the sun is down so is your power source. Many have used net metering as a solution to this problem. Net metering allows you to sell your excess production to offset the cost of your night usage. During a power outage though your only source of power is going to be some form of backup. This is because as a safety measure solar arrays are disconnected from the grid when there is an issue.
You can now choose from a variety of solar backup options. This means that you can now purchase a Powerwall and provide electricity for your entire home or you can choose to only power the essentials.
Power on-the-Go with Handheld Solar
Devices have taken a larger role in camping and hiking than ever before. The problem is that when you are camping for a week, there isn’t an outlet with which to charge your devices. With handheld solar panels, you can charge your devices no matter where you are as long as the sun is out.
Solar Screens for Windows and Other Smart Home Renewable Energy Tweaks
Combining solar with solar screens or tinted windows allows you to save even more. Not only are you using less energy, but you are also producing it. In an effort to save money many are trying to cut back on their energy consumption. Surprisingly, 21 percent of energy use is from heating and cooling our homes. With the invention of the smart thermostat, you are now able to change this. You can turn off your heater or air conditioner remotely. When you combine smart home updates with solar you gain control over your production as well.
Solar for Pools and RVs
Getting solar to either heat or power your pool can decrease your power bill. Getting solar for an RV is a little challenging. This is because most solar companies don’t service RVs.
New Solar Technology Progressions in 2019
There are many solar improvements in the works, but there are two solar enhancing technologies that will likely take off in 2019. These include smart grid and block-chain technology.
Implementing Smart Grids and Proliferation of Block chain Technology
Smart grids create a two-way dialogue between the customer and the utility. This allows utilities to quickly pinpoint issues and track energy consumption and production.
Solar Blockchain technology increases smart grid reliability by cataloging and linking information through crypto-energy. This makes it harder to alter recorded information.
Scott Cramer is President of Go Solar Group, a full-service solar company servicing Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City, UT; and San Antonio, Texas.
Renewable energy stock photo by Eviart/Shutterstock