Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Solar Energy Gets a Boost—In the U.S.

Despite lagging other European and Scandinavian countries—and China—in promoting renewable energy, the U.S. government, a major independent power producer, and the largest industrial real estate company are giving a major boost to solar energy in the U.S.  It would be the largest rooftop distributed solar generation project in the world.

The Department of Energy is backing a loan to NRG Energy, an independent power producer, to support a  $2.6 billion distributed solar program in 28 states and Washington, D.C.  The four-year program will install rooftop photovoltaic projects with a total capacity of 733 megawatts on 750 industrial buildings owned by Prologis, the world’s largest warehouse manager.   The completed project would produce enough electricity for 100,000 homes and is estimated to create 10,000 full-time jobs in 28 states. 

The project would almost double the amount of grid-connected solar generation in the U.S.   NRG also owns the largest solar photovoltaic plant operating in California and has more than 2,000 megawatts of solar projects under development or construction across the U.S.

Though NRG still owns substantial legacy coal-burning generating capacity, the company is moving in the right direction.  As a signatory of the Global Reporting Initiative, it has made meaningful reductions in air pollution and water consumption, and it is shifting at the margin toward renewable energy. 

There are vast rooftop areas available for solar generation in parts of the country with ample sunshine, and this collaborative project demonstrates the potential for a more sustainable future.

Steve Lehman

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