US solar sector eager to reinforce energy grid

The U.S. solar industry is "well-positioned to assist efforts to modernize the U.S. electric grid and to make it more resilient in the future when pounded by severe weather," the country’s Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said Monday in response to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

The report examines the economic benefits of increasing the resiliency of the electric grid to weather outages.

"Ten years after the largest blackout in U.S. history, which blanketed eight states in the Northeast in the summer of 2003 and left 50 million Americans in the dark, solar is more important than ever to our nation’s energy security and grid reliability," said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. "We look forward to working with the White House, DOE and Congress to leverage ways that solar can add to the grid’s resiliency and overall long-term effectiveness."

The U.S. solar energy industry is making up for some of the generating capacity that has been lost as an increasing number of nuclear and coal plants are mothballed, Resch added, pointing out that more than 30 utility-scale, clean energy solar projects are currently under construction in the country.

By the end of next year, Resch said, distributed generation from residences alone is expected to top 3 GW for the first time ever.

All totaled, there is now more than 8.5 GW of cumulative solar electric capacity installed in the U.S. – enough to power more than 1.3 million American homes.

"What’s more, in the first quarter of 2013, more than 48% of all new electricity added to the grid was solar. In addition, innovative solar heating and cooling systems are offering American consumers cost-efficient, effective options for meeting their energy needs," Resch said.

The SEIA president said the U.S. solar industry currently employed nearly 120,000 workers at more than 5,600 companies, most of which are small businesses spread across the country, “making solar one of the fastest growing industries in America. Part of this amazing growth is attributed to the fact that the cost of a solar system has dropped by nearly 40% over the past two years, making solar more affordable than ever."