Presidential front runner Hillary Clinton recently pitched to the nation,
“I want more wind, more solar, more advanced biofuels, more energy efficiency,” Clinton said at a rally on Sunday in Ames, Iowa. “And I’ve got to tell you, people who argue against this are just not paying attention.”
Her campaign said the goals would lead to a 700 percent increase in the nation’s installed solar capacity from current levels, and eventually could lead to the generation of at least one third of all electricity from renewable sources.
Being the Commercial Solar Guy this is a pretty significant thing to say on a national level by a person of her stature. Solar power has been growing significantly since the mid to late 2000s in the USA. Since I’ve joined the industry, another 180,000 have started careers along with me. These 180,000 people have installed over 20GW of solar power in that time. Of course, the most important change during the previous ten years is the cost of producing solar energy – it has collapsed.
The first question being asked: Is Hillary Clinton blowing smoke because she wants to get elected? Of course – politicians always say grandiose things that sound like they will change the world. What really matters though is whether or not those numbers are realistic. Can the United States grow from its current base of about 20GW installed at the end of 2014 to about 140GW installed by the end 2020? The answer is a strong, Probably.
In 2014 we installed about 6.2 MW of solar power, 34% greater than 2013. Our total installed base is 20GW, including 2014. That means we need to add 120GW more…and magically, if we were to keep up our pattern of 34% growth, we’d fall just short. 137 GW of solar power installed would mean almost 10% of our electricity is directly from the sun. That would be an amazing achievement. It is going to take a lot more than just riding out the status quo though. It is going to take legislation to force us to take into account the environmental and health costs associated with using coal and other dirty fuels. A strong push from the President of the United States could make that happen.