Happy 60th Birthday, Solar Power!

The New York Times called it “the beginning of a new era, eventually leading to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams.” On April 25, 1954 AT&T demonstrated a solar photovoltaic panel for the first time, capturing light to power the rotation of a miniature Ferris wheel.

But solar power didn’t catch on immediately because it was outrageously expensive. The estimated cost of that first PV panel was $286 per watt, which meant that the average homeowner in 1954, if a rooftop solar array were available, could have installed one for a cool $1.43 million. (A 1954 Cadillac Eldorado, for comparison, cost less than $5,000).  [Clint Wilder, Clean Edge]

And 60 years late the solar industry is booming, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, solar, wind, and hydropower provided 84.5% of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity in March. Of that, 151 MW came from solar, 93 MW from wind, and 1 MW from hydropower.

The US government is proud to be part of that industry. In April, the Department of Energy issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. When finalized, the solicitation is expected to make as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available.

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said: “Through our existing renewable energy loan guarantees, the Department’s Loan Programs Office helped launch the U.S. utility-scale solar industry and other clean energy technologies that are now contributing to our clean energy portfolio. We want to replicate that success by focusing on technologies that are on the edge of commercial-scale deployment today.”