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According to the Washington Post, the U.S. solar industry is expecting to shatter records for new solar power, with 4,143 megawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity added in the third quarter alone.
The Solar Energy Industries Association and market analysis firm GTM Research, just published its “U.S. Solar Market Insight” report. The executive summary is available for free here.
The summary notes, “Between Q1 and Q3 2016, solar accounted for 39% of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the U.S, ranking second only to natural gas as the largest source of new capacity additions.”
Most of the growth, according to the report, is in utility scale projects rather than retail rooftop solar.
Clean Energy Advisors, or CEA, invests in small utility-scale solar projects in North Carolina.
Despite the rosy report, people reasonably wonder about the prospect for renewable energy under President-Elect Trump, who has appointed climate change skeptics to head both the EPA and the Department of Energy.
CEA CEO Chris Warren agrees. “The results of the U.S. Presidential election have undoubtedly raised some questions around the future of the renewable energy industry in America. Given President-elect Trump’s campaign rhetoric around support for coal, fracking, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and his apparent belief that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese, one might assume that the solar industry is in for a rough ride. If this was 2008 I would tend to agree with that assumption.”
He points out that the growth of the industry has been exponential over the past ten years and that portends continued growth.
He says, “This growth which was driven by institutional investor interest in both the stable cash flows and tax attributes available to real assets in the space has changed the landscape in which we operate. In 2008, the price per watt for a solar panel was around $4, today that number is around sixty cents. All of the other major costs associated with solar projects have experienced similar contraction. The net result is an industry that can support itself based on underlying financial returns and not government intervention or incentives.”
“Solar is now at grid parity with fossil fuels in many states across the country and the list continues to grow. While legislative changes at the Federal, state, and local level have in the past created challenges for renewable energy (and in some instances opportunities) the financial returns are driving growth today,” he continued.
Ultimately, Chris has faith that President Trump will make decisions based on facts, not fiction.
“Nobody can accurately predict how a Donald Trump Administration will initially approach alternative energy. What we do know is that once he looks under the hood he will find substance that he probably has no idea exists,” Chris says. “He will find an economic engine that is driving job creation and contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to local economies. He will find an asset class that is widely accepted by the largest financial institutions providing above market rates of return. He will find public support among 90 percent of the American population for advancement in the amount of power we produce from renewable energy.”
“I believe that President Trump will appreciate the reality that renewable energy is here to stay and is indeed the future,” he concluded.
The report predicts that 2016’s expected total increase in solar capacity of 14 gigawatts will grow in future years, topping 20 gigawatts per year by 2020.
On Thursday, December 22, 2016 at 11:00 Eastern, Chris will join me here for a live discussion about the solar industry in the context of the coming Trump administration. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Clean Energy Advisors:
Clean Energy Advisors is a private equity firm focused on creating socially and environmentally positive ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax advantaged predictable income and preserve capital.
Chris Warren has over twenty-five years of experience in the financial industry and along the way he has acquired a unique set of skills and experiences through roles that include managing assets for high net worth investors, leading a major division of a Fortune 500 company, building three successful businesses from inception, and overseeing complex financial arrangements for over US $860 million in renewable energy assets. Mr. Warren is a graduate of Duke University. His technical training includes a Certification in Renewable Energy Management from North Carolina State University and training in Basic and Advanced Solar PV Design from Solar Energy International.
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