ORIGINAL REPORTING: Trends Within The Solar Boom
As solar price drops, utility interest spurs growth in non-traditional markets; Solar markets outside the U.S. Southwest are picking up steam thanks to steady price declines across all segments
Herman K. Trabish, September 8, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The solar boom has gotten bigger since this story ran, led by the trends described here.
Solar prices continue to fall and utilities are developing more and more of the resource. Tracking the Sun IX from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows the price of building solar power plant generation has fallen 60% since 2009. Since 2015, the national median installed price for residential solar systems have fallen 5%, non-residential system costs have dropped between 7% and 9%, and the utility-scale solar cost has fallen 12%. But utilities should be aware of market changes that are likely when the 30% investment tax credit for solar begins to phase down. Until the phase-down begins in 2019, according to LBNL’s Utility-Scale Solar 2015; An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States.
Growth is being driven by power purchase agreement (PPA) prices that have come down in a wider range of U.S. regions, including the Southeast and the Upper Midwest. Utilities are beginning to explore community solar. Growth in rooftop solar seems to have slowed. Utilities resist it because of a perceived shift to non-solar owning customers for grid upkeep costs. They await rate design reforms that will replace net energy metering with more effective price signals. Reductions in utility incentives, a better levelized cost of electricity and a shift to loan-financed direct purchases may also be slowing the decline in the price of rooftop solar, resulting in slowed growth in the sector. But two trends are clear: Customers want to participate in solar and they want multiple pathways for that participation… click here for more