Solar energy has become affordable and accessible for a growing number of American families and businesses. Supported by historic investments in research, development, and deployment, the price of solar technologies has decreased rapidly over the past several years. And since President Obama took office, the U.S. solar market has experienced rapid growth. Last year was a record-breaking year for new solar installations, and the total amount of solar power installed in the United States has increased approximately 26-fold – from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 29.3 gigawatts in the first quarter of 2016, enough to power more than 5.7 million American homes.
The Obama Administration is committed to taking action to combat climate change. As part of that effort, in May 2014 and again in September 2014 the White House announced a series of public and private sector commitments and executive actions to advance solar energy deployment. These commitments represent more than 350 private and public sector commitments to deploy 885 megawatts of solar electricity.
Hundreds of American-based companies are choosing solar power as an energy source. The following commercial sector leaders rose to the President’s challenge and committed to increase onsite solar generation at their facilities and within their supply chains.
- BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company)
- Cisco Systems
- Clif Bar
- Jackson Family Wines
- Kaiser Permanente
- Kimberly Clark Corporation
- Taylor Farms
- Viridity Energy
Across the country, low-income housing leaders and service providers have stepped up to deploy solar on affordable multifamily properties because solar makes economic sense for them, brings an economic boost to struggling communities and families, and it’s something that works now.
- Affirmed Housing Group
- Bayview Community Development Corporation
- Black Rock Solar
- Chelsea Investment Corporation
- Community Advancement Corp.
- Community Housing Works
- Community Power Network
- The Core Companies
- Denver Housing Authorityg
- District of Columbia Housing Authority
- EAH Housing
- Enterprise Community Partners
- GRID Alternatives
- Global Green USA
- Hispanic Housing Development Corporation
- Horizon Development/Preservation Partners
- Innovative Housing Opportunities
- Massachusetts Public Housing Authorities
- National Housing Trust
- LINC Housing
- Mutual Housing California
- The Reliant Group
- Standard Property Company
- Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future
- Urban Housing Communities
- Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation
- Yolo County Housing Authority
A part of tapping the full potential of solar means making it accessible for new homebuyers and homeowners. The following group of leaders is making it possible for more new homebuyers and homeowners to have solar available as an option.
- Balfour Beatty
- Beutler Corporation
- Bruns Realty Group
- Caribella Homes
- Christian Builders
- Clayton Homes
- David Weekly Homes
- Desert Alliance for Community Empowerment
- Garbett Homes
- Green Team Real Estate
- HAO Texas Builder
- The Home Depot
- Hyde Homes
- M Street Homes
- Mandalay Homes
- Meritage Homes
- Midtown Residential
- Mutual Housing California
- New Town Builders
- Nexus Energy Homes
- Palo Duro Homes
- Pulte Homes
- Scudder Roofing
- State Roofing Systems
Private finance is critical to scaling solar and renewables, which make sound, reliable investments. The following financial institutions are leading the way, with new plans to grow solar and renewable installation through large scale investment and innovative programs.
- Boston Community Capital
- Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority
- Goldman Sachs
Local governments have tremendous potential to serve as solar deployment leaders, saving taxpayer money on government energy bills and inspiring those in their communities to choose solar to power their daily lives.
- City of Beaverton, Oregon
- City of Charlottesville, Virginia
- Montgomery County, Maryland
Across the country, member-owned, not-for-profit rural electric cooperatives are deploying a variety of solar options, including more than 50 community solar projects. America’s electric cooperatives announced 199 rural electric co-ops in 27 states and American Samoa are planning solar installations that will provide over 150 MW of new solar capacity by 2020.
New Executive Actions
Solar is a vital component of the Administration’s all-of the above energy strategy. Supported by historic investments in research, development, and deployment, the price of solar technologies has decreased and the U.S. solar market has experienced rapid growth since President Obama took office. The President is committed to continuing this momentum. In April 2014, the White House hosted a solar summit to honor cross-sector leadership on solar and announced new steps to expand the use of solar in our homes, businesses, and schools. In May 2014 and again in September 2014, the President announced new initiatives to further support solar deployment and create good-paying American jobs that can’t be outsourced.
Building a Skilled Solar Workforce
To enable a skilled workforce to support the growth of solar deployment across America, the DOE SunShot Initiative’s Solar Instructor Training Network will support training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020. This builds upon SunShot’s existing Solar Instructor Training Network of nearly 400 community colleges in 49 states that have trained over 22,000 people to join the solar industry since 2010. These community colleges include:
- San Francisco City College, San Francisco, CA
- Oglala Lakota Community College, Kyle, SD (Oglala Lakota Tribe)
- Kankakee Community College, Kankakee, IL
- St. Phillips College, San Antonio, TX
- Forsyth Technical Community College, Winston Salem, NC
- Greenfield Community College, Greenfield, MA
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and DOE also partnered to advance available educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to support energy literacy and employment opportunities in the solar sector for public housing residents.
To continue to build a skilled solar workforce, DOE’s Solar Instructor Training Network is launching a veterans’ job training pilot project at up to three military bases in the fall of 2014. The pilot project will connect a talented veteran population with DOE’s extensive network of more than 400 community college-based solar training institutions.
Providing Innovative Financing for Deploying Solar
Building on the success of the Defense Department’s coordinated efforts to purchase renewables – and leverage its buying power to deploy clean energy technologies like solar – the General Services Administration is identifying opportunities for potential Federal Aggregated Solar Procurements in both the DC area and Northern California. The effort seeks to bring together multiple federal agencies to capitalize on economies of scale with the goal of lower electricity bills for individual sites, and increased renewable energy production, while reducing internal agency overhead costs by sharing procurement and project management resources.
The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service will clarify how certain investment rules relate to renewable energy installations. This is important because real estate investment trusts (REITs), a key component of many retail investors’ portfolios, generally hold only real property. The new guidance will provide clarity regarding the treatment of renewable energy installations in REITs, thereby helping to promote investment in the sector.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $68 million in 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide, including 240 solar projects.The funding is being provided through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) which offers financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Community Planning and Development (CDP) office is affirming that under current guidelines, Section 108 funding can be used for clean energy and energy efficiency projects. To support local communities in utilizing this and other funding, HUD is creating a renewable energy toolkit for use by community planning and development grantees. The toolkit will provide program compliance information, tools, and capacity to integrate renewable energy components such as solar photovoltaic, solar hot water, and cogeneration in an efficient, cost-effective, and impactful way by using CPD funds, such as the Community Development Block Grant Section 108 program. The toolkit will be finalized and available for use in early 2015.
The growth of solar has been fueled in part by access to innovative financing tools. On September 18, 2014 the Energy Department released an updated Guide to Federal Financing for Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Deployment. This guide will highlight financing programs located in various Federal agencies, such as the Treasury, HUD, and USDA, which can be used for energy efficiency and clean energy projects.
Improving Access to Federal Resources
DOE is launching Solar Powering America, available at solar.energy.gov, a one stop shop that will provide access to a wide range of Federal resources to drive solar deployment. The website will also be used to highlight and track private sector commitments to install distributed solar.
Highlighting Progress on Solar in Schools
A SunShot Initiative partner, The Solar Foundation, is releasing a report exploring how U.S. schools are choosing solar to lower their energy costs and lower their carbon footprint. The report found that thousands of schools already are cutting their energy bills by choosing solar – using savings to pay for teachers and textbooks – and estimates that more than 70,000 additional schools could do the same. In fact, in 2014, the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program honored more than 40 schools and districts across the nation for drastically reducing their energy use through conservation behaviors and the use of on-site renewables, including solar.
Releasing New Reports Showing the Declining Price of Solar
DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released three new studies showing that the cost of solar energy continues to fall across all sectors, which indicates that initiatives targeting soft costs are starting to work. In 2013 alone, the installed price of commercial and residential solar declined by more than 12 percent.
Convening Key Players to Drive Investments in Solar
The White House will host a roundtable discussion in October on how to facilitate increased capital flows into the solar market through measures such as the collection of performance data and the standardization of contracts and risk assessment tools. The meeting will bring together senior advisors from the White House and DOE, solar developers, investors, ratings agencies, and other relevant experts.
Cutting Solar Soft Costs with Innovation
DOE's SunShot Catalyst business plan competition is now open and accepting applications through November 7, 2014. This prize challenge makes it faster and easier for American innovators to launch cutting-edge solar companies, while tackling time-sensitive market challenges like soft costs. Learn more and submit your video pitch at catalyst.energy.gov.
Driving Federal Procurement of Solar
In April 2014, the Administration launched a Capital Solar Challenge, directing Federal agencies, military installations, and Federally-subsidized complexes to identify opportunities to deploy solar energy at Federal locations across the National Capital Region. As part of the Capital Solar Challenge’s private sector outreach, the General Services Administration (GSA) will host an Industry Day on October 23, 2014 in Washington D.C. to perform market research and answer developers and investors questions about GSA’s procurement approach. The GSA Contracting Officer and Leadership will be present to discuss the Agency’s strategy for deploying solar in the National Capital Region and for using solar to help meet Federal renewable energy goals with industry.