By Tom Rodd, Director, West Virginia Center on Climate Change.
On May 16, three expert speakers at a “hybrid webinar” hosted in Morgantown WV by the West Virginia on Climate Change (“WV3C”) discussed the topic “Utility-Scale Solar – a Revolution in Progress.” Here’s a summary of some of their key points:
David Feldman from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory told how the cost of solar electricity produced by photovoltaic panels has fallen rapidly in the past two decades, and is now competitive with fossil-fuel and nuclear-generated electricity everywhere in the United States. In areas like the Southwest, where the sun shines a lot, solar electricity is cheaper to produce, but it’s still quite competitive in places like West Virginia, Ohio, and even Seattle. This is great news!
Feldman and the other speakers also showed how large “utility-scale” solar panel installations that feed into the power grid are growing everywhere – most of all in States that have mandatory renewable energy standards for their utilities, and where there is a strong business demand for low-emission electric power. (Unfortunately, West Virginia is behind the curve in this area.) Rooftop solar array installations are also growing rapidly, as well as “community solar,” a middle-ground approach where local initiatives can create panel installations.
The continued (and accelerated) rapid solar growth that the low cost of producing solar electricity should mean is potentially hampered by various uncertainties – including the cost of panels due to charges of illegal tariff avoidance by China; and delays in getting approval to hook solar arrays to the grid.
This webinar program pointed to the encouraging growth of private business initiatives to do the real work of making this energy revolution happen. Speaker Danny Chiotos is the Sales and Market Development Director at Mountain View Solar in Berkeley Springs, WV. Speaker Betsy Arlen is Director of Development and Real Estate for Sun Tribe Development, a provider of large-scale renewable energy solutions. They are our heroes!
The program format joined an in-person audience in Morgantown and an online Zoom audience. There were a lot of good audience questions and good speaker presentations and responses, and the program was recorded and will be available on the WV3C website, wvclimate.org. I think that this hybrid format, building on the kind of online-only programs that COVID inspired, has a lot of potential.
The next WV3C webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, July 27, at 7:00 PM USET. This webinar will be online-only (although we originally planned an in-person component). The topic is “’Blue is the New Green’ – Labor Unions Tackle the Climate Crisis.” Get more information and register at wvclimate.org. Our next hybrid webinar will be hosted at the University of Charleston on Monday, October 3, at 7:00 PM USET. The topic will be “What Just Happened — and What’s In Store,” talking about climate policy and the November elections. Again, get more information and register at wvclimate.org. Best wishes to all!