Part of Hillary Clinton’s proposed energy plan is a pledge that half a billion additional solar panels will be installed by the end of her first term if she is elected President this year. This number sounds wildly ambitious. It is even realistic?
The goal is basically to add more than 100 gigawatts of solar capacity by the end of 2020, which is a 700% increase over current levels. That is equivalent to putting rooftop solar systems on over 25 million homes, although no doubt many of the new installations would be utility-scale and not on houses.
This year, the U.S. solar market is on track to grow an almost unbelievable 119% year-over-year. Industry forecasts are for 16 gigawatts of solar to be installed, or the equivalent of about 80 million panels. The boom was driven by the fear that the federal Investment Tax Credit was going to expire at the end of the year, so many projects were put in place last year. However, Congress extended the credit last December and there is now long-term market certainty. As a result, the forecast for the next five years looks very robust. Next year’s forecast is for 10 gigawatts to be installed with substantial growth each year thereafter.
So, the Clinton plan, if it comes to pass, probably requires a modest increase over the existing industry projections, but is by no means a daunting challenge. With its emphasis on ramping up clean power manufacturing and construction, it is as much a jobs program as an energy program that would add to the existing quarter million solar jobs in the United States.
Photo, posted November 18, 2008, courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation via Flickr.