RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The plunging cost of solar power is leading U.S. electric companies to capture more of the sun just when President Donald Trump is moving to boost coal and other fossil fuels.
Solar power represents just about 1 percent of the electricity U.S. utilities generate today, but that could grow substantially as major electric utilities move into smaller-scale solar farming, a niche developed by local cooperatives and non-profits.
It's both an opportunity and a defensive maneuver: Sunshine-capturing technology has become so cheap, so quickly, that utilities are moving to preserve their core business against competition from household solar panels.
The transition away from coal-burning power plants now seems unstoppable, even if Trump scraps rules requiring utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The average lifetime cost for utility-scale wind and solar generation in the U.S. is now cheaper than coal or nuclear and comparable to natural gas, according to financial advisory firm Lazard, which compared the fuel costs without their federal tax subsidies.