This week the American Lung Association reported that coal-fired power plants release more toxic pollutants such as arsenic and lead than any other industrial pollution source, Wendy Koch reports in USA Today. The ALA report says more than 400 plants in 46 states spew 386,000 tons of 84 hazardous air pollutants. "Power plant pollution kills people," American Lung Association president Charles D. Connor said, "It threatens the brains and nervous system of children. It can cause cancer, heart attacks and strokes."
As coal remains our primary power source in the United States, this isn’t great news for any of us. The good news this week, also reported in USA Today, is that the U.S. solar power market grew a record 67 percent last year, making it the fastest-growing energy sector. Residential PV system prices dropped 8 percent. "This remarkable growth puts the solar industry's goal of powering 2 million homes annually by 2015 within reach," Rhone Resch, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) president and CEO, stated. “Achieving such amazing growth during the economic downturn shows that smart polices combined with American ingenuity adds up to a great return on investment for the public. The bottom line is that the solar energy industry is creating tens of thousands of new American jobs each year.”
SEIA highlights some of the good news:
•The total value of U.S. solar market installations grew 67 percent from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6 billion in 2010.
•Solar electric installations in 2010 totaled 956 megawatts (MW) to reach a cumulative installed capacity of 2.6 gigawatts (GW), enough to power more than half a million households.
•Grid-connected PV installations grew 102 percent in 2010 to reach 878 MW, up from 435 MW in 2009, bringing cumulative installed PV capacity in the United States to 2,086 MW.
•Sixteen states installed more than 10 MW of PV in 2010, up from four states in 2007.
•Utility PV installations more than tripled in 2010 to reach 242 MW, up from 70 MW brought online in 2009.
•U.S. manufacturing of PV components increased substantially year-over-year for wafers (97 percent growth), cells (81 percent growth), and modules (62 percent growth).
•The 75-MW Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center was completed in 2010; it is the largest U.S. CSP plant to come online in nearly 20 years.