Nation looks to Arizona for guidance on successful solar implementation

Drawing off of the plethora of sunny days to power homes and businesses through solar power has been a success in Arizona, which is drawing more scrutiny from other states aiming to implement their own solar strategies. 

“Arizona has become one of the top five solar states in the nation thanks to its abundant sunshine, strong local demand and favorable state tax incentives for solar manufacturers,” Amit Ronen, director of the GW Solar Institute and a professor at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy at George Washington University, recently told Arizona Business Daily.

According to Ronen, Arizona reflects how solar energy can be used on a larger scale as a viable power generation source. 

“[Solar] is entering an incredibly exciting and dynamic period and is expected to be one of the fastest growing new sources of electricity both in the U.S. and around the world," Ronen said. "Just in the next five years, U.S. solar capacity is expected to triple and provide enough electricity to power 20 million homes."

In addition to traditional rooftop solar arrays, Arizona has spawned some of the bigger players in large scale utility solar power. Tempe-based First Solar, noted at one time as one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world, is an example of how solar can be scaled to serve large communities.

Ronen referred to a recent study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that said solar energy could be the biggest source of the world’s energy by 2050.

Because of these growing demands for solar, Ronen said the U.S. should be investing in both “utility scale solar projects - typically arrays of hundreds of thousands of panels owned and operated by utilities that feed power into the electricity grid - and rooftop solar, which usually supplies electricity directly to the home or business they are located on.”

Ronen also said that the price of solar panels has declined 99 percent since they were first commercialized in the mid-1970s; and in the last couple of years, the price of a full solar system has declined by about half, making solar less expensive for most consumers than what they currently pay for other types of “traditional” utility services.

“While solar is still just a small part of our nation’s energy mix, rapid growth is expected as solar prices continue to decline and solar becomes commercially competitive almost everywhere in the U.S. within the next couple years,” Ronen said.

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