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4 drivers of solar growth utilities need to know

The solar sector saw record breaking growth in 2015 and thus far, it appears that growth will carry over through 2016.

That’s according to a joint report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, titled “Solar Market Insight 2015 Q4.” In 2015, the United States solar sector installed 7,260 MW of solar PV in 2015, the largest annual total ever and 16% above 2014.

To further underscore the growth, solar accounted for 29.4% of all new U.S. generation capacity last year, second only to wind and ahead of natural gas, according to a December report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Of that number, utility-scale solar added 4 GW of new capacity, a 6% gain from 2014.

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Here Comes The Next Huge Wave Of Solar Panels

The solar industry is booming. The millionth set of solar panels in the United States was installed sometime in the last two months, and industry leaders expect the number of solar-powered systems to double within two years.

That’s a huge deal, experts say. While solar still only makes up 1 percent of the country’s energy mix, the swift rise in solar capacity portends a bright future for an energy source that, less than 10 years ago, a leading solar tech scientist dismissed as “green bling for the wealthy.”

Just 30,000 residential solar installations dotted the country a decade ago. Since then, the cost of generating power from solar has dropped by over 70 percent. Falling production costs, combined with improvements in electricity storage and a decline in the number of coal-fired power plants, has fueled the industry’s breakneck growth, according to Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

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A Top Utility Regulator Talks About How to Prepare California for 50% Renewable Energy

As California looks to get half its electricity from renewables by 2030, energy regulators in the state have never been busier.

Among the many pressing issues facing the California Public Utilities Commission this year: how to share data between utilities and distributed energy providers; how to allow utilities to rate-base distributed energy assets like storage, rooftop solar and electric-vehicle chargers; how to design new dynamic rates to shift demand and avoid cost-shifting; and whether to allow third parties to deploy infrastructure-as-a-service models in place of traditional generation, transmission and distribution build-out.

So are regulators prepared to address all these issues?

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Green Giant 3M Signs First-Ever PPA With Invenergy

3M, the global manufacturing and technology giant, announced its first-ever power purchase agreement (PPA) in February for the total production from the Gunsight wind farm in Texas, a hefty 120 MW of power. The power was procured from Invenergy, North America’s largest independent renewable power generation company. Invenergy is a founding sponsor of the Business Renewables Center (BRC), which accelerates corporate procurement of utility-scale renewable energy.

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The Energy Revolution Is Actually Happening Right Now

The energy mix in the U.S. is changing — and two separate events this week point to how we’re getting more green energy and less of the dirty stuff.

To start, there are now more than a million solar installations across the United States, including on nearly 950,000 homes and small businesses. This is a big deal. Right now, U.S. solar is generating the amount of electricity used by the entire state of Pennsylvania. And that contribution is only growing: By the end of 2016, there will be twice as much solar as there was in 2014.

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Solar Will Replace Nearly All Retiring Coal in Texas

In the next 15 years, Texas expects to add somewhere between 14 and 27 gigawatts of solar capacity, according to a new long-term system assessment from the state’s grid operator, ERCOT.

ERCOT is considering eight different scenarios, such as continued low natural-gas prices or extreme weather. Under all scenarios, solar makes up nearly all of the new capacity. In all of the scenarios, ERCOT assumes that changes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze rule will go into effect. Those changes are expected to make the rule more stringent and impact power producers with emissions that affect air quality.

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Report: Wind Industry Had Strong First Quarter of 2016

The U.S. wind power industry saw major gains during the first quarter of 2016, according to a report released Thursday by the American Wind Energy Association.

The wind industry had its strongest first quarter for installations since 2012, adding 520 megawatts of electric generating capacity between January and March, according to the AWEA’s U.S. Wind Industry First Quarter 2016 Market Report.

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New York City launches Solarize program targeting 350 MW of new distributed solar by 2025

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the launch of Solarize NYC, a city-wide program to expand access to solar through group purchasing campaigns. The program aims to help the city achieve its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emisisons 80% by 2050. The city has tripled its installed solar capacity since 2014 to nearly 75 MW, with 65 MW from privately owned solar and over 9 MW from publicly-owned arrays. Mayor de Blasio’s One City: Built to Last program will use Solarize methods to add 100 MW of public solar and 250 MW of privately-owned solar by 2025.

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Elon Musk Hints At Plans For New Electric Vehicle Even Cheaper Than The $35K Tesla Model 3

Elon Musk recently touted that his company is working on an electric car model that will even be more affordable than the Tesla Model 3. The CEO made the statement during the Future Transport Solutions conference in Oslo, where he underlined his intention of bringing cheap green cars to the masses. The Tesla Model 3 is scheduled to meet its customers at the end of next year, and the hype around it is already peaking. Not only does the car bring features and performance that make it equal to brands from traditional automakers, but it also adds the benefits of an all-electric vehicle. With every charge, the Model 3 gets to roam the streets for 200 miles.

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Senate votes to increase wind energy funding

The Senate passed an amendment Tuesday that would keep funding for wind energy research and development at its current level and restore a cut that appropriators had put into their bill. The amendment, from Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would provide $95.4 million for the Department of Energy’s wind program, up from the $80 million in the bill proposed by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

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