The US is generating far more solar energy than thought

US generating more solar than we thought

The US is generating about 50% more solar energy than thoughtIt turns out there is a whole lot more solar energy being generated in the United States than official reports indicate – about 50 percent more.

That’s a pretty big deal. When official reports fail to count almost a third of the nation’s solar production, it has a significant impact on policy and perception.

The Solar Energy Industries Association recent Solar Market Insight Report found that the U.S. generated about 30.4 million megawatt-hours of solar electricity in the 12 months that ended in March of 2015. That’s a stark contrast to the 20.2 million megawatt-hours the Energy Information Administration reported. In fact, solar generation accounts for more than 5 percent of all electric generation in Arizona, Hawaii and California now, according to the SEIA report.

An article in Greentech Media points out that this miscount could have major negative impacts on the solar industry and the consumers who currently use it or would like to invest in it in the future.

The EIA report is used to set state and national energy policies. It’s also used by the EPA to set environmental standards and goals for individual states. Without accurate information, it’s hard to set meaningful milestones. Beyond that, utility companies use that information to predict electricity demand and invest in new infrastructure.

The low solar count isn’t just just dangerous because it’s misinforming policy-makers, it’s also a problem for public perception.

While even the low solar tally coming from the official EIA report still indicates a new record breaking every quarter, it appears to the public that there is far less solar installed than there is in reality. That’s a problem because it makes initiatives like renewable energy tax credit and Sunshot look far more expensive on a per-megawatt basis than they actually are.

So, how did the EIA get it so wrong? The Energy Information Administration has historically been able to go to utility companies for all its data. Approaching those central sources has helped the administration keep track of the nation’s electricity generation capacity for decades. But times are changing. The utility company doesn’t own or control much of the country’s soalr generation. Rooftop solar systems are growing in popularity and affordability. They’re going up fast and utility companies aren’t even rebating the systems anymore, which means utility companies have less information about them now.

The solution could be a smarter grid that tracks inflow and outflow of power from residences and businesses. As we slowly transition from the status quo to a network of smart meters, official utility reports should be better at recognizing distributed generation.

Solar Impulse 2 proving the power of solar energy

Solar Impulse 2 proving power of solar energy

Flying across the Pacific Ocean isn’t such a big a deal these days. It doesn’t seem like there are many records to break or milestones to hit anymore. But one innovative new plane slowly piloted the world into a new era Tuesday.

The Solar Impulse 2 broke the record for the longest solar-powered flight in distance and duration as it reached the halfway point on its journey across the Pacific from Japan to Hawaii.

Read more: Solar Impulse 2 proving the power of solar energy

What US utilities can learn from Australia

What US utilities can learn from Australia

Westar Energy in Kansas last week joined a long list of US utility companies that foolishly believe they can stand in front of tidal waves with their hands up like traffic cops to stop the rising threat rooftop solar poses to their business models.

As US utilities tack on fees and try to charge customers with rooftop solar installations more than those without them to stem the tide, the rest of the world has already realized those punitive efforts are futile and will do little more than distract utilities and delay their inevitable demise.

Read more: What US utilities can learn from Australia

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