Imagine this scenario: A few decades in the future, your granddaughter (or great-granddaughter) wakes up in a home completely powered by solar power in San Diego. By that time, solar panel efficiency has far surpassed the 20% efficiency panels we have today. Even though the day is overcast, the panels on her roof still generate more than enough energy to keep all the electronics functioning in her home.
During breakfast, your granddaughter glances at the news headlines and sees that, for the third year in a row, seasonal temperatures have dropped. This is good news after years of record-breaking heatwaves and big storms. It seems as if the significant worldwide drop in CO2 production is having a positive effect on the environment.
Your granddaughter is driven to school in an electric car that was charged at home. It emits no CO2 into the atmosphere. During the trip, your granddaughter gazes out the window and doesn’t see anything strange in the fact that solar panels dot almost every roof. In fact, the roofs without solar panels seem out of place.
At school, your granddaughter is asked to present a report on her family. She proudly explains that her father works in the solar industry as a warehouse manager. This job is what allows her to live in a beautiful home and enjoy the pleasures of life, like gymnastic lessons and a trip to Disneyland in the summer. Several of the other children in her classroom also have parents who work with solar in some way.
That night, as the sun goes down, she flicks on the lights. Your granddaughter doesn’t think twice about firing up the computer to do her homework or turning on the television. Solar batteries like Tesla Powerwall are so good these days that they can power most homes using energy generated by the solar panels during the day.
This is the solar future we are working for in San Diego. It may seem idealistic, but solar has come an incredibly long way in just the past decade. Most indicators point to the fact that the sector will continue to grow, advance, and mature.
How far can solar in San Diego go? To answer that question, we need to understand what’s happening in the solar world today and what these trends portend for the future.
San Diego’s Solar Push
Transitioning from old to new technology doesn’t happen in a void. Whether or not a country, a state, or even a local city is willing to step up and support the transition can make a huge difference in its successful adoption. Fortunately, San Diegans live in the leading solar state and in a city that has put itself on an aggressive path toward adopting renewable energy.
But before we can understand where we’re going with solar energy in San Diego, we must first appreciate how state and local legislation affects these efforts.
The Clean Energy & Pollution Reduction Act
In 2015, California put the rest of the country on notice when Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 350. The Clean Energy & Pollution Reduction Act requires the state to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. This is a highly aggressive goal, and yet California is currently on track to meet it 10 years early according to an annual report submitted by California regulators!
It’s worth mentioning that in 2017, a bill that would require California to produce all of its energy from “100 percent greenhouse-gas-free” sources by 2045 was only narrowly blocked. Many of the bill’s supporters vowed to present it to legislators again in the near future.
Solar Panels on All New Homes
Just because California isn’t quite ready to go 100% into renewable energy doesn’t mean the state has lost its appetite for bold initiatives. The Golden State proved this earlier this year when the California Energy Commission unanimously voted to require that all new housing built in the state after January 1, 2020 include solar panels.
Not only will California residents start seeing a whole bunch of additional solar panels on roofs in new housing complexes, but a CEC press release explained that the new standard will also “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 115,000 fossil fuel cars off the road.”
San Diego Vows to Go 100% Clean Energy
California prides itself on being a renewable energy leader, but the Golden State may need to take a backseat to its second-largest city. That’s because San Diego is going all-in on its renewable energy bet. In 2015, America’s Finest City became the first municipality in the United States to commit to transitioning to 100% renewable energy as part of a larger Climate Action Plan.
And so far, the city is walking the walk. In 2016, the city’s public utility, San Diego Gas & Electric, reported that renewable sources accounted for an impressive 43.2% of its electricity production.
Where Solar Power in San Diego Is at Right Now
San Diego has set itself a challenging goal of generating all of its energy from renewable resources in the future. Solar energy will certainly play a central role in helping the city hit that goal. If you’ve lived in San Diego for the past decade, there’s no doubt that you’ve noticed solar panels popping up on more and more houses. What is the current state of solar in our city, and what can these trends tell us about the future of solar energy in San Diego?
Solar Continues to Grow Across the Country but Dips in California
It looks like the rest of the country is beginning to catch up to San Diego and California in adopting solar. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), in 2016, solar energy capacity grew more than any other energy source for the first time.
SEIA estimates that in the next five years, the U.S. solar market will triple in size. A big portion of this growth will happen outside of California as other states dramatically increase their solar capacity. While San Diego may not see the red-hot growth in the solar market that it did in previous years, at least some of the national growth can be attributed to California’s example. Our state and our city has been a willing role model in how to embrace and incorporate solar energy into our current energy infrastructure.
Solar Prices Keep Dropping
One major driver in the growth of solar panels has been the speedy drop in price. As solar panels have increased in popularity, more solar companies have jumped into the fray to meet consumer needs. This has encouraged economies of scale as manufacturers become better at making solar panels, as solar technology improves, and as competition rises among solar installation companies.
As the price of solar panels comes down, more homeowners and utilities will be enticed to invest, which will drive even greater competition, technological improvement, and economies of scale. In other words, solar will just keep getting better and cheaper!
Solar Puts San Diegans to Work
It takes a lot of talented people to run a successful solar company. Trust us, we know! Solar energy doesn’t just benefit a community by cutting down on pollution. It also puts local people to work. According to the Solar Foundation, the solar industry employed over 250,000 people in 2017, an astounding 168% increase from 2010. The Solar Foundation also notes that, “Solar makes up just under 2% of overall U.S. energy generation, yet it employs twice as many workers as the coal industry, almost five times as many as nuclear power, and nearly as many workers as the natural gas industry.”
Here in San Diego, 7,934 of our friends, neighbors, and family members made their living in the solar industry in 2017. Solar jobs are uniquely valuable because they offer a living wage and most don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Solar companies are also a great option for veterans. Roughly one-in-ten solar worker is also a veteran, according to the Solar Foundation. Here at Semper Solaris, we are a veteran-owned company that makes a special effort to hire veterans in the San Diego community.
As solar installation continues to grow across the country, solar jobs will grow with it. The solar industry will continue to offer new generations of Americans a fair wage and a middle-class lifestyle no matter their background!
What’s on the Line
Whenever we discuss the future of solar power in San Diego, we must take a step back and appreciate why our city and our state has gone through so much trouble and pushed so hard to free itself of fossil fuels.
According to the EPA, the electric power sector accounted for 32% of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. Those numbers have increased by over 10% in the last ten years.
The scientific consensus tells us that fossil fuels contribute to climate change, which in results searing heat waves, choking smog, more intense storms, degradation of wildlife habitats, and the increase of insect-borne illnesses, like Lyme disease and West Nile virus. Here in San Diego, we are already feeling the effects of climate change as our state suffers from more severe droughts and increasingly catastrophic fires.
Solar energy is one potent option to fight climate change. In a massive 2015 study called, “The Future of Solar Energy,” the MIT Energy Initiative explained that, “Massive expansion of solar generation worldwide by mid-century is likely a necessary component of any serious strategy to mitigate climate change.” Every solar panel that goes up on a rooftop creates energy that doesn’t have to be produced by burning natural gas or by coal. If we want to preserve our beautiful planet for future generations, solar energy in San Diego can be a part of that solution.
The Future of Solar in San Diego
Remember at the beginning of this article when we described your future granddaughter’s solar-powered day? When you read that scenario, it may have seemed far-fetched or naively optimistic. However, the political decisions that California and San Diego are making today will help pave the path to that future. So will the manufacturing and technological trends that are quickly upping the efficiency of solar panels while dramatically cutting their costs. Finally, renewable energies offer one of the most effective ways to combat climate change.
The decisions each of us makes can bring your grandchild’s future to fruition. If you want to combat climate change and protect the environment for future generations, it’s time to consider investing in your own solar-powered future today. At Semper Solaris, we want to help you decide if solar is the right choice for your home and budget. Contact us today to schedule a solar consultation.