Vegas Sign the Latest Example of Solar Industry’s Growth

FILE - In this July 28, 2005 file photo shows an electric company worker changing ballasts and lamps on the iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas," sign in Las Vegas, Nev. A plan to power the original sign located at the gateway to town and dating back to 1959 with solar panels is moving forward. Clark County commissioners approved the solar plan Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013.
National Journal
Alex Brown
Add to Briefcase
Alex Brown
Sept. 10, 2013, 4:16 p.m.

At least some of the sol­ar en­ergy that hap­pens in Ve­gas will soon stay in Ve­gas, power­ing Sin City’s icon­ic wel­come sign by as early as year’s end. A re­cently ap­proved plan will rig fake trees with sol­ar pan­els to light the “Wel­come to Fab­ulous Las Ve­gas” sign; ground is set to be broken on the pro­ject this fall, re­ports the Las Ve­gas Re­view-Journ­al.

The Ve­gas sign’s switch to sol­ar power is largely sym­bol­ic, but it il­lus­trates the in­dustry’s re­cent growth. Driv­ing that growth? Af­ford­ab­il­ity, both in ini­tial costs and long-term pay­off, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased Sunday by the fin­an­cial firm Laz­ard. Util­ity-scale sol­ar power has seen the break-even price for en­ergy pro­duc­tion (known as the lev­el­ized cost of en­ergy) drop by more than 50 per­cent since 2009. “Util­ity-scale sol­ar (photo­vol­ta­ics) is a com­pet­it­ive source of peak en­ergy as com­pared with con­ven­tion­al gen­er­a­tion in many parts of the world, without any sub­sidies,” Laz­ard stated.

Des­pite its cost-ef­fect­ive­ness, the vi­ab­il­ity of util­ity-scale sol­ar is still un­cer­tain at the res­id­en­tial level, the re­port said. “Res­id­en­tial-scale sol­ar [photo­vol­ta­ics] in the United States (and else­where) is be­ne­fit­ing from the con­cen­tra­tion of mul­tiple levels of fed­er­al tax sub­sidies, state-level tax sub­sidies, and/or feed-in tar­iffs. Cur­rently, res­id­en­tial-scale sol­ar PV re­mains ex­pens­ive by com­par­is­on to util­ity-scale sol­ar PV.”

Sub­sidies may be needed to make sol­ar power pal­at­able for homeown­ers, but in­dustry stat­ist­ics sug­gest they are hav­ing the de­sired ef­fect. Since the second quarter of 2012, the res­id­en­tial sol­ar mar­ket has grown 48 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a Sol­ar Mar­ket In­sight re­port con­duc­ted by the Sol­ar En­ergy In­dus­tries As­so­ci­ation and Greentech Me­dia’s GTM Re­search. The full re­port — in­clud­ing ad­di­tion­al num­bers on sol­ar af­ford­ab­il­ity — will be re­leased Thursday.

And sol­ar isn’t the only al­tern­at­ive en­ergy source to see a sud­den boost in af­ford­ab­il­ity. Wind power, Laz­ard says, has dropped its lev­el­ized cost of en­ergy more than 50 per­cent over the past four years. While wind power’s cap­it­al costs are sim­il­ar to sol­ar’s, it is even more com­pet­it­ive when it comes to break-even en­ergy pri­cing.

The re­port also notes the dif­fi­culties fa­cing more-tra­di­tion­al en­ergy sources, such as coal and nuc­le­ar. Along with high costs, the specter of “policy un­cer­tainty” looms, as Con­gress and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion wrangle over cli­mate reg­u­la­tions. Still, giv­en the gov­ern­ment’s mixed — and con­tro­ver­sial — re­cord on back­ing sol­ar pro­jects, the in­dustry might be on its own as it tries to gain trac­tion as a ma­jor en­ergy sup­pli­er.

Sol­ar has a long way to go be­fore it can power a sig­ni­fic­ant part of the na­tion’s elec­tri­city needs. Right now, re­new­able elec­tri­city makes up just 12 per­cent of the total sup­ply, ac­cord­ing to data from the En­ergy In­form­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and sol­ar gen­er­ates just 1 per­cent of all re­new­able elec­tri­city — a min­is­cule frac­tion of the total U.S. sup­ply.

What We're Following See More »
WITH LIVE BLOGGING
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
20 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Source:
SOUND LEVEL AFFECTED
Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
21 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Source:
TRUMP VS. CHEFS
Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
21 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Source:
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
1 days ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

NEVER TRUMP
USA Today Weighs in on Presidential Race for First Time Ever
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."

Source:
×