Despite the recent regressive actions of the Trump Administration, the solar power industry has and will continue to thrive.
For progressives and environmentalists, the beginning of Trump’s presidential term and the ensuing 18 months have involved one piece of bad news after another. There is one very significant silver lining, however, which is the fact that market forces are stronger than Trump’s.
Trump may gain a few voters for promoting his support for coal power plants, but it will prove to be a futile effort. According to Inside Climate News, half of the nation was powered by coal in 2003, now it’s only 30 percent and declining. For example, the Tennessee Valley Authority utility once operated a total of 59 coal fired plants, of which more than half are now closed and the rest are being considered for retirement.
On the other hand, the U.S. solar industry continues to grow despite the decisions made in the White House. In fact, according to a recent post by The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the industry added 2.5 gigawatts of solar PV by the end of the first quarter, a 13 percent increase from 2017. This trend will continue as the prices for solar power decrease a bit more, making investments in fossil fuels seem like a gradually worse idea.
Trump’s solar panel tariffs are ultimately having a minor and short-lived effect on the industry. Prices for panels are falling, the tariffs are reduced over the next 4 years, and some solar companies are planning to build U.S. based manufacturing plants. In addition to those ideas, the residential solar industry is even less affected because the price of solar panels represents a relatively small part of the overall solar installation cost.
Solar may not presently represent a large portion of our nation’s total energy production, but market forces will guarantee that it will dominate one day soon. In fact, the pricing for solar already makes it a winner. The missing piece of the puzzle, energy storage, will reach market maturity as well real soon. It won’t be long before we have competitively prices solar plus storage solutions that can be implemented at every scale.
No matter what Trump or anyone else says, the coal industry is not coming back. Any legitimate energy industry analyst will tell you the same. The sooner our nation embraces renewables, the sooner our environment and economy will not only thrive, but become much more resilient.