North America is currently undergoing a solar boom as cities and municipalities embrace innovative green technologies as viable energy sources. South of the border, California has emerged as a leader in the production, use, and promotion of solar energy. A study by the University of Berkley, released late last year, showcased the job growth and pollution reductions attributed to increases in the green technology sector.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club commented on the University report, “California has made addressing climate disruption a priority, which has led to a thriving clean energy economy and the creation of thousands of new, exciting, and meaningful opportunities for our workforce. This report is proof of that success and an example of how protecting our health and environment creates jobs and boosts the economy.”
Leading the way are tech giants Google and Apple, each company heavily invested in the future of solar technology. Google invested $300 million earlier this year into a solar fund established by SolarCity Corp that will help cover the costs of 25,000 residential solar projects, and that will include solar panel kits, as well as solar panel installation and maintenance.
Apple also made a large investment in solar this year when they penned a deal with First Solar for $850 million. “It’s the biggest-ever solar procurement deal for a company that isn’t a utility, and it nearly triples Apple’s stake in solar,” Tom Randall with Bloomberg Business wrote. “The deal will supply enough electricity to power all of Apple’s California stores, offices, headquarters and a data center.”
Governments around the globe are also creating incentives for citizens that want to contribute to the solar power system. Germany’s two tiered feed-in-tariff leads global efforts to encourage residential energy production and offset solar panel costs that may deter homeowners from participating. In Canada, Ontario’s MicroFIT program also promotes the installation of solar panels for homes by offering a 20-year fixed-term feed in tariff.
Joseph Barker, COO of Solar Brokers Canada, a company that takes care of the the MicroFIT application process for homeowners and also advises consumers on the installation of do-it-yourself solar panels, is thrilled that Ontario is heading Canada’s green technology boom. “The benefits of photovoltaic (solar) panels are very attractive. Currently, installing solar panels through the MicroFIT program offers a 14 percent return on investment and the peace of mind of protection against future rising energy costs,” Joseph Barker adds. “It’s also a guaranteed revenue source for at least 20 years.”
Ontario’s MicroFIT program is extremely successful, despite the steady decrease in payouts for energy production. By the end of 2012, 40,000 applications had been processed from business and residential homeowners wanting to reap the benefits of solar technology. “Switching to solar energy continues to be lucrative because the cost of solar panels has also decreased approximately 75 per cent around the world,” Joseph Barker of Solar Brokers Canada points out.
Solar technology is also great for the economy – both Canada and the US have seen significant job growth in the green sector. Employment is up 37 percent in the Canadian clean energy sector and trends indicate that number will grow over the next decade, as coal and fossil fuels are completely eliminated from our power grid. Even more impressively, both in Canada and across the border in the US, reports state green energy employment rates have surpassed comparative job numbers in the oil and gas sector.