Solar power on the rise in Texas in 2016

Solar power had a banner year in the U.S. in 2016, and after years of slow growth in Texas, the industry is starting to pick up, according to a year end report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national trade group.

Texas ranked third in the nation for most solar capacity installed in the third quarter, following Utah and California. That’s a trend that the Texas Solar Power Association expects to continue next year despite being in a state that has done very little to encourage the growth of the  industry.

“The primary driver of that I would say is our cost reduction,  and continued improvement and development of the industry,” said Charlie Hemmeline, the association’s executive director. “We are definitely growing significantly now. It’s across the board and certainly more of the growth came from the utility sector.”

Nationally, the solar industry experienced record-breaking growth in third quarter, when additions to solar capacity doubling over the second quarter of 2016 and nearly tripling from third quarter of 2015.. As with Texas, the biggest driver of national solar additions were utility-scale solar farms.

Hemmeline said he is hopeful that the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump won’t hurt the growth of solar around the nation.

“Fundamentally, we have real market momentum here now, and I would not look for a major change from that trajectory,” said Hemmeline. “For Texas, the fundamentals are there. It’s a huge resource, we have a large population, and a growing need for electricity. And our costs continue to go down.”

The federal government offers an investment tax credit for investors in solar — everyone from a rooftop solar owner to an utility-scale system — but the credit is scheduled to be phased out starting in 2019.