The renewable energy industry's political foes have gone to great lengths to paint the entire sector as weak and flailing. Conservative pundits, the GOP, and fossil fuel-affiliated think tanks have tried to squeeze Solyndra, a couple failed solar enterprises, and now, the $50 light bulb, into a narrative bemoaning Obama's "green energy agenda".
But you can't really ignore reports like this one, from Reuters. Headlined "U.S. solar power growth jumps to new record," the report documents booming activity in the industry:
Solar installers built 1,855 megawatts of photovoltaic projects in 2011 for a total of $8.4 billion, up from 887 MW in 2010, according to a report released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ...According to GTM, construction will ramp up 35-50% in 2012, and we should hit at least 2,500 MW of installed solar by the end of the year.
A record level of fourth quarter installations totalling 776 MW easily beat the peak of 473 MW recorded in the third quarter of the year. "The U.S. was a strong market in 2011 and we expect it to be strong again in 2012," said GTM Managing Director Shayle Kann.
Solar installations on homes were up 11%, and up 28% at non-residential sites.
In other words, solar is booming. Of course, the industry still needs tax breaks to compete with the fossil fuels industry—which itself enjoys generous subsidies, and doesn't pay for the harmful health impacts it passes on to the public in the form of pollution. And those subsidies are in danger. The GOP Congress is keen to remove them, a move that would have dire ramifications for the fast-growing clean energy industry.