Donald Trump’s administration has claimed that renewable energy is too expensive and dependent on government subsidies and vowed to revive the coal industry. The solar power industry, however, is growing across the country, with continually decreasing costs as technology improves.
Solar energy continues to grow in many southern states that voted for Trump, and solar firms in this region are continuously gaining more investments. At this rate, the investments in solar energy will most likely only continue to increase, counteracting Trump’s plan to revive coal.
Solar expansion in the middle of the country is offsetting its slower growth in the California and Northeast markets. Environmental initiatives have typically relied on more liberal coastal states, so this marks a big shift for the solar industry to rely more on southern states and mid-country states.
“Climate change has never come up in any discussion about why we would do a project,” said Matt Beasley, chief marketing officer for Silicon Ranch Corp, a solar developer based in Nashville, Tennessee. “It is always about the economics.”
The costs of solar power generation have dropped 85 percent since 2009, making its unsubsidized cost competitive with natural gas prices.
Solar projects are estimated to receive $12.3 billion in tax breaks between 2016 and 2020. Trump has never specifically proposed repealing such incentives but has expressed skepticism about the viability of solar and wind, calling both "very, very expensive".
The president’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry last month called for new rules to subsidize coal and nuclear energy, arguing that the rise of weather-dependent solar and wind power would make the grid less reliable. Republicans, however, are outspoken in their continuing support for solar incentives, using an economic rather than environmental rationale.