Last week saw new twists and turns in the Suniva bankruptcy even case while a new solar farm in Arizona is coming in at historically low prices. Meanwhile, the renewable energy industries continue to grow in the US and across the world as more new technologies are tested and implemented.
First off, Tuscon Electric Power signed a record low-cost contract for solar power in the US. Coming close to, if not beating the lowest cost for solar power worldwide, making it cost-competitive. The 100 megawatt (MW) solar farm being built by NextEra Energy for Tuscon Electric Power will produce solar energy for the utility at a cost of 3 cents per kilowatt hour. Previously, such low prices were only seen in developing nations where labor and other costs are much less expensive.
The project is able to come in at such a low cost largely because the price of solar panels have fallen so far. that’s putting pressure on manufacturers to significantly lower their costs and as in the case of Suniva, to file for bankruptcy. The Suniva case took a turn last week as it came to light that one of its investors was behind the controversial ITC filing that could impose tariffs on imported solar panels. Moreover that investor, SQN Capital Management, is essentially holding the solar industry hostage for its investment in Suniva. It sent a letter to the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Machinery & Electronic Products explaining that if a Chinese company were to purchase the Suniva manufacturing equipment for $55 million, it would essentially invalidate Suniva’s filing for tariff relief.
While the Suniva filing hasn’t halted progress in the solar and renewables industries. They face challenges from the Trump Administration as well. Last week the administration released its budget proposal. The proposal would end investments into government-funded research and development in renewable energy as well as seek other draconian cuts to renewables. The proposed changes would put millions of jobs at risk across the country.
Still at this point it appears renewables are forging new paths in many states. Last week, for instance, Nevada’s State Assembly passed an important pro-solar bill including a solar bill of rights. That legislation, if it’s signed into law by the Governor or passed with a veto-proof majority, would reinstate net-metering in the state and ensure solar consumers are protected from net-metering changes and more.
Coal plants are also being retired earlier than originally anticipated as the costs of renewable energy continues to come down. Florida Power & Light announced it will shutter another coal plant last week in favor of new solar and natural gas generation. As such it will shutter the 1.3 gigawatt coal-fired St. Johns River Power Park plant near Jacksonville, by the end of 2017.
Overall, at least six states were generating at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewables by the end of 2016. That’s according to the latest U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index from Clean Edge. What’s surprising is that three states, Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas, now get 30 percent or more of their electricity from renewable energy. While they have a higher concentration of renewable energy on their network, the overall leader in the amount of renewable energy installed was California, followed by Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon and New York, respectively. Each of those states have held that position for at least two years.Tweet