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More New Solar Installations than Natural Gas in 2015

More New Solar Installations than Natural Gas in 2015

Written by Karen Paley, PhD.   

I make it a habit to leave the office each day for lunch. Typically I sit in my car and eat a salad. I might call a friend or listen to a novel on CD, but I always check my renewable energy portfolios.1 If a holding is noticeably up or down, I open the accompanying news article on the site. It was with great surprise that I read and re-read a story this week from Benzinga entitled "U.S Solar Installations Top Natural Gas for First Time in History."2

Not quite believing what I was seeing, I went to the source of the information, GreenTech Media, or GTM Research, which declares itself to be "the leading market and advisory firm on the transformation of the global energy industry."3 Sure enough, there was a summary of the GTM report cited in the article. "59 gigawatts of solar PV [photovoltaic] were installed globally in 2015, a 34 percent increase over 2014's total...GTM Research forecasts the cumulative worldwide PV total to reach 321 gigawatts by the end of 2016."4

Since the cost of the full GTM report is prohibitive, I rely here on Benzinga's comparison to natural gas. "For the first time in history, the U.S. installed more solar than natural gas capacity in 2015." I take this as a very good sign for our planet.

Cautions are in order here. GTM points out that the rise and fall of the solar industry is largely in the hands of government. "'The fourth quarter of 2015 showed that global PV demand is very much at the mercy of government support, which can often be unpredictable and idiosyncratic, leading to often negative but sometimes positive outcomes,' said Mohit Anand, a senior solar analyst with GTM Research."5 The huge expansion in the market in the fourth quarter of 2015 is a direct result of the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit. In other words, homeowner "demand for rooftop power"6 was fueled by the continued availability of federal rebates.

While I will continue to invest in solar power and discuss this topic with others when such investing suits their objectives, financial situation, and goals, GTM and others point out the risks. "Despite the big year for installations, solar and solar-storage related stocks were mixed in 2015." Of course, the same mix occurred outside this sector.

Please keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.


1) For the record, these investments represent less than 1/3 of my estate.

2)  “U.S Solar Installations Top Natural Gas for the First Time in History.” 22 February 2016.

3) 28 February 2016

4) Munsell, Mike.  “GTM Research: Global Solar PV Installations Grew by 34% in 2015.” 22 January 2016.

5) Munsell, Mike.  “GTM Research: Global Solar PV Installations Grew by 34% in 2015.” 22 January 2016.

6) Martin, Chris.  “U.S. Solar Surged 17% in 2015 Led by Demand for Rooftop Power.” BloombergBusiness.  22 February 2016.

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