PHOENIX –Solar power is growing so fast in Arizona that goals once considered ambitious are now seen as readily achievable, according to a new report by Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center.
“We can get to 25 percent solar in Arizona by 2025 if we just keep our foot on the accelerator,” said Malcolm Mossman, organizer with Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center. “That’s a small fraction of what’s possible, but it will make a big difference in the quality of our lives and the future of our planet.”
The group’s researchers found that solar has grown 142 percent in recent years. Even if this pace slowed to 20 percent, solar could still generate 25 percent of Arizona’s electricity in just over a decade— a goal once thought improbable by many.
Achieving this target, the report said, would cut as much carbon pollution as 2.8 million cars emit in a year, and put Arizona more than halfway to the benchmark set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which requires cuts in power plant carbon pollution of 52 percent.
The report comes on the heels of a town hall event organized by Environment Arizona in which chairman of AZ 4 Solar Kirk Busch, state legislative district 24 representative-elect Ken Clark and solar finance specialist Ben Montclair discussed the prospects of solar energy here in Arizona. The event drew students and solar activists from across the Phoenix area.
“It is time for the elected leaders and the public and private utilities to get ready for the game-changing nature of solar energy,” said Ken Clark, also the former state Energy Office Director. “We know it can be done. It is just about will power and faith in our ability to meet the needs of the future."
Solar is currently the fastest-growing industry in the country, adding 143,000 jobs nationwide in 2013. According to the latest solar jobs census from the Solar Foundation, the solar industry employed more than 8,500 people in Arizona in 2013.
“The reason so many people are going solar is because, in so many cases, it just makes financial sense,” said Ben Montclair, who develops commercial-scale solar projects with Smart Solar Solutions, an Arizona-based solar installer. “Compare the financial performance of rooftop solar to your favorite mutual fund and chances are pretty good that you’ll see a better return from solar with less risk.”
The report quantifies the state’s enormous solar energy potential using data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Already, the state is home to more than 800,000 residential and commercial rooftops that could host solar panels, and it has enough technical potential to meet the state’s energy needs 320 times over.
“When it comes to solar energy, the sky’s the limit,” said Malcolm Mossman. “Getting to 25 percent solar is the just the first step to a future powered entirely by pollution-free energy.”