Solar demand increasing despite drop in natural gas prices

Global Business

The demand for renewable power resources such as wind and solar is not only holding steady, but growing. CCTV America’s Jessica Stone reported the story from Albany, New York.

People want solar panels in the American snow belt. Hudson Solar is paneling more than a dozen houses a month in the state of New York.

Solar demand increasing despite drop in natural gas prices

The demand for renewable power resources such as wind and solar is not only holding steady, but growing. CCTV America's Jessica Stone reported the story from Albany, New York.

“Last winter, we saw a lot of people calling in saying that their bills were doubling, and that definitely kept the phone ringing for us,” Greta Noble, inside sales manager at Hudson Solar said.

The cost of a loan to pay off the solar panels is still less than the average monthly power bill for some families. The panels are designed to produce all the power a family needs. New York also offers generous tax breaks for the installation of solar panels.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a new solar project starts every three minutes in the U.S. Many say orders have continued to come in, despite a drop in natural gas prices.

“I’ve talked a lot with the owner of the company, and he’s been around for 13 years, and he’s not nervous about the decrease in natural gas prices at all,” Noble said.

The main driver of electricity costs in New York is delivery and taxes. While the state produces most of its power by burning natural gas, the drop in the cost of that gas is not costing the customer money. At the same time, the cost of solar power has dropped significantly.

“When I first got involved in solar, which was in the 2004-2005 time frame, a solar panel cost about $3 a watt to buy,” Mark Scher, president of Applied High Voltage said. “Today they cost – in bulk – they cost somewhere between 70-90 cents a watt to buy.”

Scher has been designing power infrastructure for 35 years. He said there are increasing opportunities across the globe to bring more environmentally-friendly electricity production online. However renewables are not likely to completely replace fossil fuels for power production any time soon, he added.

“I don’t see that in my lifetime. I see renewables being something on the order of 30 percent of our power production,” he said.

Scher said to increase solar use, the world needs longer-lasting batteries and a more reliable transmission infrastructure that can accommodate an increase in renewable power production. This puts a lot of pressure on national governments to invest in long-term power facilities to support diversification. Western Europe is leading the way so far, with China and the U.S. also working towards that goal.

“It’s a huge undertaking. It’s a huge cost,” Scher said.

Most residential solar panel owners will not ever be completely energy independent. These owners still rely on other forms of power generation at night. However, diversity in power production is key.

“I think depending on any one source of generation is a bad thing, including renewables,” Scher said. “There needs to be a proper mix.”


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