Wash., Ore. solar set to explode — report 

Source: Krysti Shallenberger, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, April 24, 2015

This is solar’s year, at least in Washington state and Oregon, whose market growth should expand by a collective 200 megawatts of installed solar capacity, according to a recent Solar Energy Industries Association report.

Titled “U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review,” the report said most of the growth centered around residential solar, with some commercial installations from Walgreens Co. and Safeway Inc. “all making significant investments in solar energy systems.”

“In Washington, solar growth this year is projected to triple, while Oregon is expected to more than quadruple. That’s pretty impressive growth,” Rhone Resch, SEIA’s CEO, said in a press release. “Today more and more people, as well as business in both states, are choosing to ‘go solar’ as a way to reduce their electricity costs, make American more energy independent, protect our environment and fight climate change. It’s a win-win for both states.”

Both solar markets have made substantial inroads in states mostly powered by hydroelectricity. Oregon’s installed solar capacity currently sits at 84 MW, with Washington even lower at just 39 MW, according to SEIA’s website.

For Washington, solar’s growth comes as no surprise to the president of the advocacy group Solar Washington, David Nicol.

“Gosh, it’s almost a vertical growth right now,” Nicol said. Solar-friendly legislation, net metering policies — which enable customers to sell excess green energy to the grid — paired with solid loan and program incentives motivated Washingtonians to shell out cash for solar. But in a state where hydroelectricity married with strong wind powers the grid, Nicol doesn’t think solar will outpace those two energy sources anytime soon.

Despite hydro’s dominance, Nicol added, solar opens another option to replace coal-generated electricity that powers barely 5 percent of the Evergreen State’s grid, according to data compiled by Advanced Energy Economy.

For Oregon, the industry suffered a 10 percent installation decline last year, according to SEIA’s website. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said hydroelectricity and wind energy make up most of the state’s renewable power mix with “limited potential for solar.”

But federal and state tax incentives has bolstered what limited solar potential exists, according to SEIA’s report, which pointed out declines in solar array pricing as the biggest factor for solar’s expansion in both states alongside “smart and effective public policies” like net metering and renewable portfolio standards, Resch said in the press release.

A call to Oregon’s Solar Energy Industries Association wasn’t answered at press time.