Three recent victories on solar energy

Solar energy represents one of the strongest opportunities for the nation to transition to a clean energy future and after three recent victories that future looks brighter than ever.

Deployment costs keep dropping, desperate legal challenges from the dinosaur fossil fuel industry continue to be dismissed, and for the first time ever more solar energy was brought online than any other energy source. At The Wilderness Society we work to see clean energy succeed in areas that avoid conflict with wilderness and wildlife, because more pollution-free energy means healthier air, lands and water. Let’s take a look at the latest momentum building toward cleaner energy for all Americans.

Price of solar continues to plummet as new power plant locks in cheapest price ever

Last week saw another record breaking achievement for American renewable energy development as Nevada’s biggest utility NV Energy inked a deal for the cheapest price ever for solar energy at 3.87 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Bloomberg Business broke the news and notes that just last year the utility was paying 13.77 cents per kilowatt-hour for renewable energy.

The energy will come from First Solar’s 100-megawatt Playa Solar 2 power plant to be located in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone - a success story of its own. Dry Lake is one of 19 Solar Energy Zones designated around the country following the Bureau of Land Management’s 2012 Western Solar Plan, a four-year planning process which determined areas in the desert southwest best fit for large-scale solar energy projects. The goal was to accelerate development while also minimizing environmental impacts. So far these energy zones are doing just this as Playa Solar 2 received approval in half the average time of all solar projects before it while also producing an innovative mitigation plan to reduce wildlife impact.

Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard upheld

On July 13th the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a challenge to the very idea of Renewable Energy Standards (RES), a key tool for incentivizing clean energy investment. The challenge came from a coal industry backed legal group and was seeking to overturn Colorado’s 2004 voter-approved RES on grounds that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, a claim the three-judge panel rejected. The ruling allows Colorado’s successful RES to continue to drive clean energy development. When the law was passed in 2004 it set a then ambitious goal of 10 percent renewable generation by 2015. The state blew by this goal seven years early and in 2010 the standard was bumped up to 30 percent by 2020.

Solar Energy is Booming

As costs keep falling, solar energy installation continues to rise across the country. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U.S. installed 1,306 megawatts of solar in the first quarter of 2015, marking the sixth consecutive quarter in which the nation added more than one gigawatt of installations. Also in Q1, more than 51 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. came from solar, perhaps marking a tipping point for this rapidly ascending technology.

These developments are just part of the recent wave of positive momentum for American renewable energy development. As documented in TWS’ recent Brighter Future report, the last six years have seen unprecedented achievements in clean energy development. But there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure future development is done in a smart and efficient manner. You can read our report here for some of our top recommendations.

Brian Fadie, Government Relations Intern, is the original author of this piece,

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