Looking to prepare for some tough interview questions to make sure you stand out from the crowd? Here’s a good one. Do you think solar energy will (or even can) keep growing? Solar power is a hot topic in the energy industry these days. The technology is constantly evolving, and more states and cities are encouraging solar development through financial incentives and tax breaks, on a business level and a household level. We are experiencing a green energy revolution, and solar power is on the rise. Are you prepared to speak to the future of solar? Here are some things to consider as you prepare your answer.

Understanding the Value of Solar Power

Recently, Minnesota broke ground by formalizing the study of solar energy value formula that is designed to change the sometimes tenuous relationship between producers and utilities. Compensation to produce solar energy has depended largely on consumption rates, which can put producers at a disadvantage depending on their region, and the demand for alternative energy.

The formula in question sets an interesting precedent that was meant to set a transparent, market-based price for solar energy. That price was designed to be based entirely on the following objectives:  avoiding the purchase of energy from other, more polluting energy sources; avoiding the need to build additional power plant capacity to meet growing consumer energy needs; providing energy at a fixed price now and in the future; and reducing wear and tear on the electric grid (including power lines, substations, and power plants).

Solar Trends and Projections

The future of solar looks strong. We see that strength in the latest year-in-review report from the team of Wood Mac and SEIA. While the 2018 data shows that annual solar installations were down, with U.S. solar companies installing 2 percent less than they had in 2017, there are some other statistics to consider that give us a very different look into the future.

Solar megawatts are climbing. Even with the annual total down (a smidge), we still added 10,600 megawatts (MW) of PV to our national power mix. That put the total installed solar tally at more than 64,000 MW — enough to generate the equivalent of 12 million typical U.S. households’ use.

Solar power’s contributions are growing. Solar power’s new heights are particularly visible in the technology’s increasing role in our electricity supply. While only 2.4 percent of U.S. electricity in 2018, solar generation climbed 24 percent between 2017 and 2018.

Residential solar is up. Installations of large-scale and commercial solar were both lower in 2018 than in the previous year, but gains in residential solar made up for almost all those drops. Residential solar power’s growth, says the report, “exceeded expectations for 2018,” with 7 percent more megawatts going in during the year than in 2017.

The costs of solar installation and maintenance are dropping. There is quite an amazing downward trend for the cost of solar. Costs for the different market segments dropped another 4 to 15 percent in 2018. The report authors credit reductions in hardware costs, including the costs of PV modules. There is currently a global oversupply of the materials needed for solar installation, which means it’s that much easier to get started across the globe.

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