Solar’s Best Quarter Ever

For the third quarter of 2011, solar installations in the U.S.  broke a record: 449 megawatts of new capacity in just three months, according to a report by the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA). The fourth quarter is expected to be even larger, with many end-of-year projects coming on line.

The report cited a strong residential market, utility-scale project completions, and effective policies, all combined with the decreasing costs of solar panels. It’s a 140% growth year-over-year, but SEIA warns that the blistering growth is threatened by the potential expiration of the Treasury Department’s 1603 Program. The program allows customers to receive a cash grant rather than the usual tax credit. The effect on the Treasury is the same, but during a down economy, this format lubricates the transaction better than tax credits.

The overall effect has been more than 1,000 MW of new solar online in the first three quarters of 2011, $3.5 billion in private solar investment, and tens of thousands of new jobs. But the looming expiration of the 1603 program once again (cue broken record) puts the solar industry on unstable footing in terms of long term planning.

Vote Solar, a non-profit organization promoting the solar industry and stable economic policies to expedite a clean energy future, is helping drive citizen support for extending the initiative. Click here to show your support!



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Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.