Solar energy is coming to the U.S one way or the other, despite impressions to the contrary. At the risk of generalisation, one thing to keep in mind about the southern states of the U.S. is that they tend to be more traditional than the rest of the country. Consequently, you might expect resistance to something as “progressive” as solar power to be substantial – and not just among politicians and elected officials. The Southern States in particular are often viewed in this light, but the truth on the ground is a different situation entirely.
Politics and Practicality are Two Different Things
From the outside looking in, renewables are facing an uphill struggle at national level in the USA. Suspicion about climate change, some spurious views about the health implications of wind turbines and a president who has a loyal supporter base in coal mining grab easy headlines but are a red herring. Politically, support for fossil fuels is about jobs not technology. Overall, the USA can learn about transferable skills from countries like Australia, places like Queensland are doing a great job transitioning coal miners into renewable energy jobs. Understanding that opposition to renewable energy is not really about renewable energy, but is rather about employment.
Never Underestimate the Importance of Business
It’s easy for Europeans to miss a central fact about the US, it’s not about big government. What businesses do and what their consumers demand is perhaps more significant. In Alabama, Lightsource BP are partnering up with the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority to roll out a $125 million project to supply clean energy to the Yellowhammer State. The deal will see Lightsource BP place over 350,00 solar panels across 800 acres and for extras, will channel over $5 million in tax revenue to schools throughout the state.
Similar private business initiatives are under way in neighbouring Florida. In late May, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) announced the start of construction for 10 new solar plants in the state. Once complete, the solar plants will be able to generate enough clean energy for up to 400,000 homes. The solar plants will also allow FPL consumers to benefit from credits on their bills courtesy of the savings that will be made.
Microgrids are Great (and Cost Effective) for Rural Consumers
In Louisiana, a bastion of fossil fuels and oil in particular, traditional political divides are being transcended by the pressing need for rural communities to have to access affordable, clean energy. Electric cooperatives, sourcing solar energy, are not-for-profit organisations that provide cheap energy for up to one million homes and businesses across the state. These are for the most part very conservative minded communities that are usually resistant to societal change. However, that resistance is seemingly dispatched with when it comes to cost effective solar energy.
Beer Tastes Better When its Cleaner and Your Friends Might Like It
Texas is not immune to the allure of solar energy either. Lone Star State based brewing giant Anheuser-Busch has just recently announced a 222 MW solar energy deal with Recurrent Energy. This underscores the brewers 2017 pledge to be purchasing 100% renewable energy by 2025. Meanwhile, if you’re ever down in Texas look me up (on Facebook); the social media giant is partnering with Longroad Energy in a $416 million project to build a huge solar farm in west Texas.
The Beautiful South
So, despite the anti-clean energy rhetoric that crops up from time to time, it’s not all one-way traffic when it comes to solar energy – far from it. Even our friends in the more conservative southern states of the U.S. are increasingly set to enjoy the benefits of clean solar energy more and more, courtesy of the private sector and consumer demand. So, expect Solar to receive more of that famous Southern hospitality in the future!
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