The pandemic brought many solar power projects to a halt in the spring. But the industry more than made up for the lost activity later in the year and is now on track to provide more than 40 percent of the new electricity generating capacity added this year.
Solar power capacity added by the close of 2020 would be 43 percent higher than in 2019, an industry association and research firm said in a report released on Tuesday.
All told, about 43 percent of the new electricity generating capacity added this year will be from solar panels, according to the report by the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie, a research and consulting firm. Large solar farms led the growth, but residential installations also jumped between the second and third quarters of the year.
Renewable energy groups had feared that the pandemic would devastate business, but the reality was far different. As the cost of solar panels continues to fall and as concerns about climate change grow, more utilities and homeowners are deciding to go solar, often because they can save a lot of money over the life of the systems compared to paying for energy from fossil fuels. In many areas, solar panels now provide electricity at a lower cost than new coal or natural gas power plants, and in some areas they can provide power for less than existing fossil fuel plants.
The pandemic may have helped the industry: As spending on entertainment and travel fell, people had more money to consider investing in rooftop solar systems, which when paired with batteries can also serve as backup power during wildfires and storms. Utilities have also increased their reliance on solar and wind power as demand for electricity has fallen, forcing operators to cut costs and focus more on renewable sources, which are cheaper to operate.
The industry’s performance in 2020 “speaks to our ability to support economic growth, even in our darkest moments,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and chief executive of the solar association.
Texas led the nation in solar installations measured by megawatts, followed by Florida, California, South Carolina and Virginia. Except California, those states reported more installations through the first nine months of the year than in all of 2019.
After a slow start because of the pandemic, the California Solar and Storage Association said it expected to finish the year with more installations than in 2019.
In Britain, 370,000 people reported being laid off from August to October, the most on record for a three-month period, as employers cut jobs before the end of the government’s wage-subsidy program, which never actually ended.
The nation’s unemployment rate increased to 4.9 percent from 4.8 percent in the three months to October, according to the Office for National…
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