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Energy and Environment
KUNR Public Radio is a proud partner in the Mountain West News Bureau, a partnership of public media stations that serve Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. The mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues of the Mountain West.

As The Pandemic Tanks Oil And Gas, Solar Shines

Three men installing solar panels.
Unsplash

It's been a tough year for gas and oil prices, but solar power has seen steady growth during this pandemic year. 

A solar trade group published a report Tuesday that projects a record 19 gigawatts of new solar capacity installations in 2020, which would represent a 43% year-over-year increase. The growth is driven largely by utility-scale installations, not the residential market, which was hit hard by coronavirus-related lockdowns.

One reason solar power has proved resilient is the federal tax credits that bolster the industry.

“After 2023, a lot of those incentives will have gone away,” said David Feldman, an analyst with the National Renewable Energy Lab.

Extending federal incentives is the solar industry’s top priority under the incoming Biden administration. But the industry is maturing independent of tax credits.

“The equipment is cheaper, the industry has gotten bigger, so people know how to do it,” Feldman said.

Feldman also points to the growth in community solar.

“In a lot of locations, they've started things called community solar programs, where a group of customers can sign up and purchase a little bit of electricity from a large system that's located in the community,” he said.

Much of solar’s growth has occurred in Sun Belt states, including Nevada. Just last week, TerraScale, a clean energy design firm, announced plans for a massive carbon-neutral industrial park near Reno powered largely by solar.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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