Mark Andrew, a former Hennepin County Board Chair and former chair of the Minnesota DFL Party, is the owner of GreenMark, a leading environmental marketing agency. GreenMark, the originator of the Minnesota Twins/Pentair Rain Water Recycle partnership, is currently finalizing the state's largest solar energy installation while delivering sustainable results on behalf of leading brands, nonprofits, public agencies and the public.

Solar comes of Age

Posted by: Mark Andrew Updated: May 2, 2014 - 12:37 AM

The Age of Aquarius is in full bloom, as evidenced by the astonishing global expansion of solar power last year. The celebration of Aquarius, a 2,000 year astrological period said to have emerged over the past 50 or so years, was popularized as the theme song of the '60's hippy musical, Hair. The period is marked by creativity, communitarianism, technology, humanity, globalism and altruism.

I liked reading up on the topic. Aquarius has a pathos that is distinctly about the global village and our interdependence on one another. Almost on cue to the soundings of the cosmic harmonies, solar energy has burst onto the scene.

And not an epoch too soon.

The recently issued 5th United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report paints the most vivid picture to date of the measures that need to be taken to stave off cataclysmic impacts. Well, cataclysmic impacts are no longer avoidable. But REALLY cataclysmic impacts might be.

One of the major recommendations of the IPCC report, which focuses more than its predecessor reports on "adapting" rather than "preventing" climate change, is to swiftly shift away from fossil fuels, one of the leading causes of the crisis along with deforestation and agriculture.

Humanity seems to be getting the message.

Solar energy enjoyed a surge last year never before seen. 2013 global installations was over a third of all solar installed before it; in the U.S. new solar spiked to 10 gigawatts, an increase of over one-third in a single year. That translates to something like 1.6 million American households being powered by solar today. I was astonished to learn that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission recently granted approval of 150MW of new electrical capacity by choosing a solar project over natural gas based largely on economics. "This is the first time solar has competed favorably with coal or natural gas in a head-to-head economic competition and won", said Michael Krause, a national authority on clean energy and green roofs and Founder of the Minneapolis-based Green Institute. "Solar is coming into its own as a key source of our state's energy portfolio".

Around 16-18MW of solar is on-line in Minnesota today. With the 1.5% mandate and a new Community Solar Garden law being rolled out, the next several years will see an unprecedented growth in solar power, perhaps as much as 2,500%.

As for the coal and nuclear conglomerates, they don't even know they are dead industies walking. They can only hope to keep market share and fight to restrian the growth of renewables. Meanwhile, renewables and conservation will absorb the lions share of future demand with far fewer capital costs. 

This century will celebreate the inexorable march of clean energy progress--safer, cleaner, cheaper. The economics are stronger, the public demand is higher and the enlightened self-interest of industry is clearer. 

So over the next few years, while the stars are properly aligned, let's do what the song says and "let the sunshine in."

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