Best Solar Stories of 2023

Looking Back on Our Favorite Features

In 2023 we published 25 editions of Solar News of the Week to keep you up to date on the latest solar, renewable energy, and utility news. It was a record-breaking year for solar and an exciting time for stories from the renewable energy industry. From space-based solar, to electrification transitions, and deploying solar in war zones, take a look back on some of our favorite articles, videos, and podcasts from 2023.

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Innovative Installations

The Untapped Solar Power Potential of Big Box Stores – TIME

Big box stories like Target, Home Depot, and more represent a huge untapped potential for solar energy. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, big box stores could provide about 109,000 acres of space for solar – the equivalent of more than 50 million megawatt hours per year and the ability to power 5.2 million homes. 

Ukrainians are putting solar panels on hospitals to fight blackouts – The Washington Post

Solar infrastructure installed in Ukraine before the war is keeping essential services up and running with much of the nation now racing to install solar panels. The new decentralized approach also has an important effect: energy security. Knocking power offline is now more challenging, making solar power the latest essential element in Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Scientists Just Got A Step Closer to the Sci-Fi Reality of Building Solar Power Stations in Space – TIME

Scientists at Caltech developed new technology to beam solar energy from space. This new capability makes solar power a more reliable option. Solar panels on Earth only work during the day, but in space, “it’s always noon on a sunny day.” Power beamed from satellites in space would go directly into the U.S. power grid.

The Clean Energy Transition

The Clean Energy Future is Arriving Faster Than You Think – New York Times

For a country built on burning oil and gas, the U.S. is shifting away from fossil fuel dependence much faster than many experts anticipated. Studies predict that solar will overtake coal as the world’s largest source of electricity by 2025.

Millions of EV Batteries Could Retire to Solar Farms – WIRED

A large solar farm near Santa Barbara, California uses repurposed EV batteries to store and send excess energy back to the grid. One of two facilities in the state, the project is meant to demonstrate how EV batteries can find a second life before being recycled. Project leaders estimate that about 70% of today’s EV batteries could find a second life as part of a stationary power pack.

Industry Challenges

Guess Who’s Been Paying to Block Green Energy. You Have. – New York Times Opinion

While the world has recognized the need for rapid clean energy acceleration, utility companies may be using customer funds to bankroll opposition to renewable projects. Monopoly utilities must follow regulations that limit their profit, but many are baking their political agendas into rates meant to fund new grid infrastructure. Some states have enacted laws that prohibit utilities from charging customers for lobbying efforts and the rest of the country should follow their lead. This is an opinion piece written by the executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, a utility watchdog organization.

How Solar Sales Bros Threaten the Green Energy Transition – TIME

The “solar bro” culture of door knocking sales is hampering the green energy transition as hundreds of thousands of money-hungry solar salespeople fan out across the nation. Shady sales tactics, little knowledge of renewable energy, and cult-like behavior are making solar the new “ground zero” for consumer fraud.

Column: California strikes another blow against rooftop solar – LA Times

California’s Public Utility Commission recently voted to slash the value of rooftop solar for a second time, leading to a steep decline in sales in the state. The vote came after concerns were raised about how incentives for solar may be raising the cost of electricity for other non-solar users. While there is no perfect climate solution, for many environmentalists and advocates, squabbling over solar incentives feels ineffective at a time when action is paramount.

Doing Good

Her Retirement Home Said No to Solar Panels. She Got it to Buy 1,344 – New York Times

A steadfast and determined member of a retirement home in Connecticut made it her mission to see her community install solar. After a tireless 5-year campaign and many headwinds later, panels will soon cover the parking lot. 

With a Crippled Energy Grid, Puerto Rico Turned to Solar Power. (Spoiler: It’s Working) – CNET

After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 many areas were slow to recover. But today residents are armed with new tools: solar power and storage. Many see the challenges and solutions on the island as a glimpse of what’s to come and what we can learn about energy resilience and the role of utilities and government. 

Clean energy’s Made-in-America movements could bring jobs for coal miners – Canary Media

As American manufacturing ramps up, clean energy projects are estimated to add over 900,000 new jobs. For miners displaced by the closure of coal operations, renewable energy presents an opportunity.

The Sun Queen – PBS American Experience

The Sun Queen, a new show from PBS’ American Experience highlights the life of Hungarian-American scientist, Mária Telkes. Considered the founding mother of solar power, she began her work during World War II and continued pioneering solar energy projects throughout her life. One of her most famous is the Dover Sun House, a solar-heated model home experiment conducted in the late 1940s. 

How to fight climate change with parking lots – Vox

Did you know parking lots take up more than 5% of developed land in the U.S.? Unpack rural solar development, solar opposition, and what it might take to create dynamic renewable energy solutions that work with existing infrastructure.

How ‘solar grazing’ is creating a new industry – CBS News

Meet the Solar Shepard. How one third-generation sheep farmer is bringing sustainable grazing to commercial solar arrays and reclaiming agricultural land in the process.

Can Solar Power Help Fix Drought-Ravaged Farmlands? – 1A: Remaking America from NPR

Farmers across the American West are rethinking their land use as the worst drought in over 1,000 years continues to make growing conditions perilous. Switching to solar may be the answer.

Solar is Eating Itself. Is That a Problem? – Bloomberg

Take a deep dive on the history of the solar market, how solar panels are made, and the factors that drive the growth of the global solar industry. Plus, will the Inflation Reduction Act make a difference in the U.S. solar supply chain? What happens when solar produces so much power that electricity is free?

In some fights over solar, it’s environmentalist vs. environmentalist – NPR

Opposition to large solar developments is nothing new and many have concerns about how installations will affect communities. But for concerned environmentalists that want to see climate action it’s hard to find consensus. Scale up clean energy to reduce carbon emissions, or protect habitat for biodiversity? For one community in Massachusetts these issues loom large.