Week in review: White House goes solar as more solar shipped than ever before

Whitehouse getting solar panels

Last week the White House confirmed that it is installing solar on its rooftop. This comes at the same time that the solar industry is seeing record shipments. But while the votes of confidence in solar like the White House’s move are positive, elsewhere some people are removing PV modules from their homes, as in Spain, where residents now face taxes for their solar. Meanwhile Vermonters are fighting against net-metering caps. 

First off, the White House is finally installing solar. President Obama said the White House would go solar back in October 2010, and then nothing happened, until now. Last week a White House official confirmed that the President’s residence was installing solar and making energy efficiency retrofits while the Obama family is on vacation. The installation will help offset 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s energy bills. But as important, if not more important to the nation is the symbolism of having the nation’s most famous property go solar.

This comes at the same time that NPD Solarbuzz is showing a record in shipments for the second quarter of 2012. The company’s Module Tracker Quarterly report found that the 20 leading PV manufacturers shipped more than 5.8 gigawatts of modules. That’s significantly more than the 4.8 gigawatts of PV modules shipped in the previous year’s second quarter. The report also showed some signs that the market is maturing, since the companies that made up the top 20 have been relatively stable over recent quarters.

Not all the solar news is great everywhere, however. In Spain after formerly supporting renewable energy and distributed solar energy with incentives the government there has done an about face and is now taxing distributed solar projects—even those that aren’t connected to the grid to help pay back 26 billion euros to the country’s power producers. Payments to cover the so-called tariff deficit are currently capped at 6 euro cents per kilowatt hour produced. Which is still enough to make some Spaniards tear the PV off their rooftops.

Vermont has been among the top states in the North Atlantic U.S. to support solar. But at least one utility, Washington Electric Co-op is restricting the size of solar installations it will incentivize to 5 kilowatts. The co-op utility said it is limiting the size of future arrays because it has already met its distributed solar generation goal, but the policy change was criticized by solar advocates.

The Bureau of Land Management unveiled a new Solar Energy Zone last week in California’s Chocolate Mountains in the Imperial Valley. Under the new Solar Energy Zone, the Department of Interior put aside 20,762 acres for solar development, which it said could produce nearly 3.5 gigawatts of electricity. In addition, the DOI set aside 19,162 acres for goethermal development in the region. 

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