US Solar Industry Growing in 2009: Whole Foods and Wal-Mart Step Up

earthdayWith bulging inventories of oil and a global economy set to shrink for the first time since World War II, it’s hard to imagine great short-term growth prospects for solar and other renewable energy sources. But generous governmental support, a bit of private leadership, and a backlog of demand from 2008 have kept the industry moving along. The first quarter of 2009 even saw tremendous growth in solar PV deployment in the US. Leading markets California and New Jersey have already installed over 100 MW, more than half of their annual total solar deployment in 2008, according to consultant Larry Sherwood of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

Whether domestic solar installations will maintain the quick pace of the first quarter, it appears that the market will grow in 2009. This is a huge feat amidst an economy expected to shrink more than 2.5 percent.

Wal-Mart & Whole Foods Celebrate a Solar Earth Day

Whole Foods announced today that they will triple their solar installations from powering 10 stores to 30 stores nationwide. Wal-Mart made a similar commitment: to roughly double its solar use from the 18 stores that currently have large solar installations.

Texas Poised to Join the Solar Party

Texas has been the US leader in wind power for several years now. But despite outstanding solar potential and relatively high electricity prices, Texas was not even a top ten solar state in 2008. The Texas Senate today passed a bill which could dramatically change that. The bill authorizes the collection of small monthly contributions from utility customers that add up ~$100 million per year over five years to support solar deployment. The program will combine with federal incentives to pay as much as 50-60% of the cost of new solar. If this bill becomes law, Texas may soon compete with New Jersey for the #2 spot after California.

Bottom Line:

A mix of governmental support, private environmental initiative, and carryover demand from 2008 appear capable of keeping the solar industry healthy enough to grow in 2009. If so, 2010 could be the real coming out party for solar as a major energy player on the global stage.

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