Celebrating History with Solar Installs #MillionSolarStrong
Solar has hit the big time. We now have one million solar projects powering our country, and so Vote Solar, SEIA and many others are marking this moment in solar history with a week of news, social media and events. And it’s been awesome.
Solar supporters—including the women of our Oakland headquarters pictured above—have posted thousands of #MillionSolarStrong messages and photos to social media reaching a network of millions. Our partners have held press events, posted blogs and written articles (including this Huffington Post piece from our own Adam Browning) celebrating the milestone. Vote Solar and 85 organizations representing Americans from across the political spectrum and solar value chain joined forces to sign a Million Solar Strong Declaration. It’s signed by local and national solar companies, environmental groups and faith leaders, conservative and progressive groups. These are organizations that care about solar for very different reasons—because of what it means for climate, for our children, for social justice, for bill savings, or for their very jobs. But we are united in wanting to power our homes, businesses and communities with more homegrown sunshine.
So what does our million solar milestone really mean for our daily lives?
It means consumer choice: For a century we have depended on a centralized, often monopoly-based energy system, but today, affordable solar and other clean technologies are putting power—literally—in the hands of people. Consumers want to lower their bills and choose where their power comes from in a way that the old model doesn’t allow, and today they can and do exercise that choice by going solar. It’s not just people: Walmart, Google, Apple, Ikea: some of the biggest names in business are now going big on solar because it’s good for their bottom line. That consumer desire for more energy options—for a more participatory energy system—is revealing itself in fights over the future of solar in states from Nevada to Florida. And we are optimistic that consumer choice will ultimately win the day.
It means healthier communities: That same monopoly energy system has polluted our planet and our neighborhoods for generations, especially in communities of color and low-income communities who can least afford it. A million solar installations harnessing pollution-free sunshine means clean air to breathe and progress toward maintaining a climate that supports life as we know it—for us and for our kids. And with policies focused on expanding low-income solar access, we can ensure that solar turns energy into a force of good in those same communities.
And it means economic opportunity wherever the sun shines… which is everywhere: Solar keeps energy dollars invested in our communities. It turns our rooftops and brown fields into sources of jobs and renewed private investment. It creates living wage jobs that can’t be outsourced and good careers for all education levels, helping us address our income inequality at the same time we are addressing environmental crisis. As we’ve approached this millionth solar milestone: solar has supported double-digit job growth for the past three years, far outpacing the general economy. In 2015, solar supported more than 200,000 U.S. jobs and $16.8 billion in investment.
For all of these reasons and plenty more—we are living in an exciting age for energy. We added more solar last year than new natural gas capacity. There have been times this year when California has gotten third of its power from the sun. We are powering one of the world’s largest economies with what used to be little more than a pipe dream. Even more exciting, it took 40 years to get to one million solar projects in the United States, but we are going to reach two million in less than two years. The dream of bringing solar to the mainstream is coming true before our very eyes.