Clean Power Plan: How Solar Energy is a Cornerstone to Success

By:Tom Werner

August 5, 2015

SunPower Solar Star installation in California.

Editors Note: In 2020, SunPower announced the completion of the strategic spin-off of its manufacturing division into a separate business named Maxeon Solar Technologies, Ltd. As a result, SunPower has expanded its offerings to drive future growth. The SunPower Equinox® system now offers multiple panel options, including front- and back-contact panels, all of which are responsibly and rigorously quality tested to provide the best energy solution for your home.

This week's unveiling of the landmark Clean Power Plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, heralded as our nation’s most ambitious effort to combat climate change, highlights how uniquely positioned the solar industry is to help transition the country to a new clean energy future.

Solar power is mainstream today. It's cost competitive, abundant and easily installed. It’s creating jobs and stimulating the economy. Solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the country, already reducing carbon emissions by 23.5 million metric tons each year – that’s like taking 4.9 million cars off the road. In the United States, for example, a solar power system is installed every 2.5 minutes, according the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The Clean Power Plan will rely on the installation of thousands of megawatts (MW) of new solar power systems, in addition to the 50,000 MW of solar projected to be operating by 2020.

It's not a question of whether the world goes solar. It's a matter of how fast it happens.

What the plan does

  • The Clean Power Plan is the first ever U.S. standards designed to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the nation’s largest source of CO2, while maintaining energy reliability and affordability. Today, electric power generation is responsible for nearly 40 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions.

  • It will cut down on pollutants that cause serious health problems for thousands of Americans every year. The American Lung Association strongly supports the new standards, stating that if reduction goals are met by 2030, it would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 sick days at work and school.

  • It lays the groundwork for a long-term successful strategy to tackle climate change.

Why it matters

In 2009, the U.S. EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution leads to long-lasting climate changes, threatening our health and welfare. Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas pollutant, accounting for nearly three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions and 82 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to environmental and public health – from causing mega storms to drought, wild fires, higher food prices and more severe allergy seasons.

The most vulnerable among us – children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease and those living in poverty – may be most at risk from the impacts of climate change.

The role solar plays

The Clean Power Plan lets states decide how they'll reach the new compliance goals. Solar is a clean, renewable, reliable source of energy that offers states a cost-effective, ready-to-deploy solution to reducing carbon emissions.

Utilities across the country have already embraced solar, and now they have a reason to accelerate their efforts.

SunPower has been working closely with utilities for several years, helping them integrate more solar into their energy mix. Last month alone, we announced several new initiatives, including a planned 100-megawatt solar power plant for NV Energy in Nevada and the acquisition of 1.5 gigawatts of solar power development projects in 11 states. We also announced that we’re working with utilities such as  ConEd Solutions and Dominion to make it easier for homeowners in New York and New Jersey to go solar.

The Clean Power Plan marks one of those moments in history that will be remembered by generations to come as a turning point in how America is powered – a massive shift from relying on fossil fuels to embracing solar and other renewables.

Clean air isn't something that we can take for granted.  It’s something that requires bold action to protect.  The Clean Power Plan is a great step forward in addressing the challenge of climate pollution.