ORIGINAL REPORTING: Utilities Driving Record Solar Growth
How record large-scale solar growth is changing utility IPPs; Utility affiliates could bring online over half of all the new utility-scale solar built through 2017
Herman K. Trabish, July 21, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: This story’s foreshadowing of a U.S. solar boom led by the private sector was realized in year-end numbers.
Utilities became the biggest players in the large-scale solar market as the solar industry hurtled toward shattering growth records by adding 14.5 GW of photovoltaic (PV) capacity, a 94% increase over the 7.5 GW installed in 2015. Typically, first quarter growth is the year's weakest, but solar developers added 1,665 MW in Q1 2016. That was 64% of all new U.S. electric generating capacity for Q1 and towered over the 18 MW of natural gas that came online in the same timeframe. It brought the cumulative installed U.S. solar capacity to 27.5 GW. Utility-scale solar was 43% of capacity installed, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Residential PV growth was 34% higher than in Q1 2015 but grew only 1% over its Q4 2015 performance in Q1 2016, after averaging an 11% quarter to quarter growth throughout the previous year. Flat growth in California, which has long been half the residential solar market, was a major factor, and though that market is expected to bounce back, it did not do so by the end of the year. By contrast, the utility-scale segment of the solar market was ready for unprecedented growth. Regulated utilities cannot readily monetize the ITC, but it can be of value to the unregulated independent power producer (IPP) subsidiaries of utility holding companies. That, and PPA prices low enough to compete with other generation sources, are driving a new level of interest in the solar market among utilities… click here for more