2020 Trends: New Developments in Solar and LED’s

Solar power generation and LED lighting are not the newfangled technologies they once were, but both industries are still changing rapidly.  As we begin a new year and a new decade, let’s look at the trends we see coming up in 2020.

Storage Cost Will Continue to Decline

When there’s no sunlight, a solar system provides power from a bank of batteries, usually of the lithium-ion type. The cost of these batteries has been in decline over the last decade, dropping 76% since 2012, with the decline becoming more rapid in the past two years—a 35% drop.

This will affect commercial producers the most, but will make systems in homes and commercial sites more useful as they can hold more power for a given cost.

Solar Tax Incentives are Sunsetting

Unfortunately, Congress did not act to extend the Solar Investment Tax Credit, so projects that begin this year will receive a 26% credit instead of 30%. Getting your project done now is a smart move, because in 2021 the credit drops to 22%, and in 2022 it goes away.

Title 24 Will Change the Industry

Regulation changes in California often alter the practices of whole industries. After all, given the Golden State’s population (about 38 million) and economy (over $3 trillion), it’s much easier and more profitable to meet their standard and sell the same product in other locations than it is to produce multiple products.

Title 24 is a California building code section that governs energy use. The new regs include everything from requirements for occupancy sensors in bathrooms to a major expansion of what lights and outlets require controls. Most importantly, new requirements for lighting power density (LPD, expressed as watts per square foot) make it difficult to construct or renovate buildings with any lighting system other than well-controlled LED’s. The changes in demand this requirement creates will likely affect what users in the Midwest have access to in 2020 and affect it even more in the years ahead.

Federal Regulations (And Title 24) Will Likely Eliminate More Bulbs

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), most bulbs and fixtures sold in the US in 2020 and beyond must deliver at least 45 Lumens Per Watt (LPW), a standard current incandescents and halogen bulbs are unable to meet. The standard for some fluorescent fixtures is even higher, though high-efficiency fluorescent tubes can deliver 80 or 100 LPW and won’t run afoul of this law.

The Trump administration has put these regulations on hold for now. However, since Title 24 makes the use of fluorescents difficult and EISA regulations could be allowed to take effect at any time, manufacturers and retailers have a strong incentive to leave incandescents, halogens and traditional fluorescents behind.