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Natural gas and solar power have been growing together. Can that last?

If you want a quick overview of the state of electrical generation in the United States, just take a look at the Xcel Energy’s High Bridge Generating Station in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Opened in 2008 as a replacement for an aging coal plant, the station features a 534-megawatt natural gas facility looming over three solar panels that provide a sculptural element to the site — and 9.8 kilowatts of electricity. And as the Xcel Center goes, so goes the nation.

Last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration, photovoltaic panels accounted for just around a half of a percent of the nation’s electricity production. Natural gas provided 27 percent. Yet if photovoltaic seems more ornamental than a serious energy contender, the data over the past two years shows a dramatic increase in photovoltaic generation.

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