Renewable Energy

Investment in Solar Energy for 2020

I’m fascinated by electricity. From a young age, I have been “messing around” with electronics.

I built my first stereo system from a kit back in 1967. I then designed and built a device that caused colored floodlights to flash with the music.

It was psychedelic, man.

My parents raised their eyebrows a bit. They were initially afraid that I might burn down the house from a short circuit or something.

Fortunately, that never happened. And I went on to have a decades-long career in electrical engineering.

I may be retired now, but I still like messing around with electricity. Especially when it comes to solar energy.

Today, my projects are much larger (and more expensive) than they were when I was a teenager.

Back in 2011, my wife and I had a 10-kilowatt (kW) solar array installed at our farm.

Now we’re doubling our capacity to 20 kW and adding storage early next year.

David Fessler's Solar Panels

Solar Energy Is on a Tear

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that solar power usage is ramping up worldwide.

Today, it makes up just 2.4% of the U.S. electricity generation mix. However, we could easily be headed to 20% or more over the next decade. And utility-scale solar is really taking off as well.

Roughly 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of new utility-scale solar is underway in the U.S. And that’s why the solar industry is a hotbed of employment right now. The fastest-growing job in the U.S. is “solar photovoltaic installer.”

California, with 38.9% of U.S. solar generating capacity, has long been ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to solar adoption. And more than 30% of all solar jobs are in the Golden State.

By the end of 2018, there were 1.47 million solar panels installed across the Lower 48. They produce about 64.2 GW of electricity. That’s enough to power up 12.3 million U.S. homes.

And in 2018 alone, 10.6 GW of solar power was added.

So whether you believe in climate change or not, using solar power is good for the environment.

U.S. solar energy offsets more than 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. That’s the equivalent of planting nearly 1.2 billion trees. Plus, there are no byproducts from solar generation, and about 97% of old panels are recyclable.

The public appetite for solar energy has never been greater either. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 89% of Americans support building more solar farms.

These will be needed since nearly 75% of all U.S. households can’t (or aren’t allowed to) install solar on their own roofs.

That’s why the opportunity to install solar panels on commercial buildings, especially warehouses, is huge.

At the end of 2018, there was 70.9 billion square feet of commercial property in the U.S. And if all commercial roof space was covered with solar panels, we would gain an additional 325 GW of generating capacity.

By comparison, the electric generating capacity in the U.S. today is about 1,200 GW. That means we can get more than 25% of our electricity just by putting solar on roofs that are mostly out of sight and out of mind.

Walmart is actively doing this. It already has solar on 500 of its stores in 22 states.

It has a total of 5,400 facilities in the U.S. And it plans to eventually install solar on thousands more.

But it’s behind Target and IKEA. Target has solar on 20% of its stores, and the Swedish retailer has solar on 90% of its U.S. stores.

It’s clear that solar energy in the U.S. is on a rapid uptick. Solar power – and renewable energy in general – is my No. 1 industry to invest in for the next decade.

It’s growing rapidly, while other energy investments – like oil, gas and nuclear – are going nowhere fast.

Good investing,