The United States installed more solar power than any other electricity source in the first quarter of 2018. According to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, developers in the U.S. installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from last year.
This makes up 55 percent of all new power generation, and the second time that solar has beaten new wind and natural gas turbines. However, the boom in solar might be short-lived as the tariffs imposed by Republican president Donald Trump take effect in addition to heavy tax reform.
The strong start to the year should be enough to reach the estimated 10.8 gigawatts of total installed power. Experts believe that by 2023, annual installations should reach more than 14 gigawatts.
“Solar has become a common-sense option for much of the U.S., and is too strong to be set back for long, even in light of the tariffs,” SEIA Chief Executive Officer Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement.
Massive solar projects boost industry
The push is partly in thanks to the installation of giant fields of solar panels by community groups and businesses. Microsoft is one massive company helping solar break new records.
Earlier this year it announced it was buying 315 megawatts from two new solar projects in Virginia. The move will help Microsoft reach its goal of powering its operations with 60 percent renewables by 2020.
“Today, we’re signing the largest corporate solar agreement in the United States, a 315-megawatt project in Virginia that will move us ahead of schedule in creating a cleaner cloud,” said Brad Smith, president, Microsoft. “This project means more than just gigawatts because our commitment is broader than transforming our own operations; it’s also about helping others access more renewable energy.”
The massive solar farms are owned and operated by sPower, once finished the two projects, called Pleinmont I and II, will consist of more than 750,000 solar panels spread across more than 2,000 acres. The projects will produce approximately 715,000 MWh a year.
The completed project will be the largest solar endeavor in Virginia and will be the 5th biggest solar project in the United States. “Microsoft’s participation is a game-changer for this project and for other buyers,” said Ryan Creamer, CEO of sPower.
“Their early commitment helped ensure that the project continued to move forward and come to fruition at a time of regulatory uncertainty. Microsoft’s large off-take also helped us offer very cost-competitive options for other buyers looking at our Virginia portfolios. This model broadens the ability for buyers of all sizes to participate in a large project like this, yet only take the megawatts they need for their business goals. We’re proud to be working with Microsoft on this innovative approach.”