Thinking About a Solar Investment? Now May Be the Time to Jump In

“Solar is the fastest-growing source of new electricity generation in the nation – growing 4,000 percent over the past decade …” That’s according to the brief, “Investing in a Clean Energy Future: Solar Energy Research, Deployment, and Workforce Priorities,” issued by the Department of Energy (DOE). The brief points to preliminary results of an upcoming analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that says “to reach a largely decarbonized electricity sector by 2035, solar deployment would need to accelerate to three to four times faster than its current rate by 2030. Large-scale decarbonization of the electricity sector could move solar from 3 percent of generation today to over 40 percent by 2035 …”

First Solar, of Tempe, Ariz., is just one solar technology company continuing to grow in response to increasing interest. In August 2021, it broke ground on its third manufacturing facility in Ohio. The new 3.3-gigawatt facility, which is scheduled to begin operations in the first half of 2023, represents a $680 million investment. The facility is forecast to create more than 700 permanent jobs in addition to the more than 1,600 people that First Solar currently employs in Ohio.

Representatives at First Solar say the new facility will be one of the most advanced of its kind in the solar industry, allowing it to produce an anticipated average of one module roughly every 2.75 seconds across its three-factory Ohio footprint once it achieves its full production capacity. The facility will combine highly skilled workers with Industry 4.0 architecture, machine-to-machine communication, artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things connectivity to produce a higher degree of automation, precision, and
continuous improvement.

“We’re leading the efforts to revitalize American solar manufacturing and secure critical clean energy supply chains because reliable access to competitive, efficient solar panels is essential to our country’s future. Solar panels are the next crude oil, and we cannot be beholden to adversarial nations for our supply,” says CEO Mark Widmar, CEO.

The investment could be just the beginning for more growth in solar power. In its brief, the DOE says “solar is already the fastest-growing source of new electricity generation in the nation – growing nearly 4,000 percent in just over a decade, from about 2.5 gigawatts (GWdc) of solar capacity in 2010 to over 100 GWdc today. The pipeline of new solar projects in 2021 is on pace to hit record highs …”

Another attractive benefit is the potential to create new jobs. According to the DOE, “Employment in the solar industry has been one of the fastest growing sectors over the past decade—increasing by 150 percent between 2010 and 2020. These workers are employed by over 10,000 solar businesses across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico—many of them small businesses. While clean energy jobs broadly were hit by the economic shutdown due to the COVID19 pandemic, they have bounced back substantially—adding back over 300,000 jobs this past year—and recovering at a rate faster than most other sectors of the economy.”

NFRC Report Captures Potential for Commercial Windows

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) released a report on the potential benefits of high-efficiency windows in commercial buildings titled “Characterization of the Commercial Fenestration Market—Opportunities for Enhanced Efficiencies.” The study, funded by NFRC and in part by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was conducted by research firm Guidehouse to assess the opportunities for energy-efficient commercial fenestration on a national scale.

From a thorough review of the current commercial building market in the U.S., the study found a significant need for energy-efficient façade and window systems. However, NFRC says in its release that the industry isn’t fully aware of the benefits of high-efficiency windows including cost savings, reduced energy use, and occupant health and comfort. In order for widespread adoption of a commercial fenestration ratings program, the report says the certification process must be simple, credible, and standardized in such a way that it does not delay the project. The NFRC says the new commercial certification program it is developing will help accomplish this goal.

Currently under consideration, NFRC is expanding its options for participating in its commercial program. These changes will make it easier to maximize energy efficiency in the built environment and reduce the time and effort required for testing, certification, and compliance.

According to NFRC, a building’s energy efficiency can only be measured accurately when its commercial fenestration ratings are included in the calculations. Accurate ratings help communities set energy-use targets and estimate the savings potential when using energy-efficient window, doors, and skylights.

“New York City, Washington, D.C., and other localities are implementing strong energy-efficiency mandates. The commercial sector, in particular, will need to adjust to stronger regulations for new facilities and complicated retrofits for existing structures,” said NFRC CEO Deb Callahan. “NFRC’s more than 30 years of fair, accurate, and credible ratings can help make this possible. Our certification provides peace of mind for building owners and occupants because they can be sure that the windows in their building contribute to a healthy workspace.”

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