Solar projects are becoming hot investments.
With recent scale-up in both photovoltaic and concentrated thermal facilities, solar energy is nearing cost parity with wind and even some fossil generation sources. And with development models evolving to help companies manage technology risks, solar power has become an attractive investment opportunity—not just for tax-equity players, but also for utilities.
Models are evolving for utility-scale solar development.
During the next few years, the biggest growth in the solar energy market will happen in the form of utility-scale projects, mostly driven by state renewable portfolio mandates. But financing such projects has become more difficult, with a smaller pool of equity capital and an evolving set of regulatory requirements.
Utility-scale projects suffer growing pains.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Anyone who’s been watching the solar power industry for more than a few years can’t help but be impressed by the recent explosion of large-scale projects. It seems akin to the rapid scale-up of wind in the late 1990s and early 2000s—when megawatt-scale turbines became standard-issue, and the definition of a “large” wind farm changed from a capacity of 20 MW to something more like 200 MW.
Raising the stakes in RTO markets.
Generators and demand-response providers are reaping rewards in forward capacity auctions, causing suppliers to go shopping for the most lucrative markets. Now the Midwest ISO is trying to catch up, by proposing its own auction for years-ahead resource bids. But does RTO shopping serve the interests of customers, who are legally entitled to rates that are just and reasonable? Why are some state policy makers advocating a return to old-school RFPs for long-term contracts?
(February 2011) Silver Spring integrates Itron meters; PECO picks Sensus; AT&T and Elster sign agreement; PSEG Fossil selects ABB for a multi-phase controls project; Trilliant secures equity financing and wins Burbank ARRA contract; Navigant buys BTM Consult; GE acquires SmartSignal; plus contracts and announcements from Survalent, Mitsubishi Motors, AES Energy Storage and others.
Northeastern politicians declare war on capacity auctions.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in February signed into law a bill that will have the state commissioning construction of 2,000 MW of new gas-fired power capacity and dumping it into the PJM capacity market at a $0 price. Maryland is considering a similar capacity-dumping scheme. What’s behind these efforts to manipulate capacity auctions — regional constraints or local politics?
NERC confronts a case backlog now numbering in the thousands.
The case backlog of unprocessed electric reliability violations is growing out of control, threatening to “swamp” the industry — a sign, perhaps, that when Congress and FERC modernized the electric reliability regime to serve a more market-based industry structure, and for the first time gave enforcement authority to North American Reliability Corp. (NERC) as the nation’s official electric reliability czar, no one gave much thought, apparently, as to whether NERC’s very idea of what constitutes reliability might have needed modernizing as well.
Combined efforts bring mutual benefit.
Regardless of what drives the action — state regulation, federal policy, economic reality — collaboration between utilities and the solar industry is now becoming prevalent. Expanding definitions of utility solar business models represent a significant potential for solar market growth, and provide paths for others to follow.
In-state green mandates face Constitutional challenges.
By Richard Lehfeldt, Woody N. Peterson, and David T. Schur
In effort to promote local green energy resources, some states are enacting policies that tread on federal authority. Restrictions on power imports to satisfy RPS requirements might violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Can the states foster home-grown energy without running afoul of federal laws?
Kiewit chooses Alstom equipment for Dominion and Northland Power plants; Abengoa Solar reaches 143 MW with thermal plant startup; S&C Electric to engineer Tessera Solar project; Canada and Hitachi cooperate on carbon sequestration; Black & Veatch to manage PSE&G smart-grid project; AEP selects OPower for customer engagement; SRP picks Elster for AMI rollout; Oncor installs millionth smart meter; plus contract and technology announcements from ABB, Arcadian Networks, Beacon Power, Catalyst Renewables, eMeter, Itron, Open Systems International, Siemens, SunEdison, Tesla Motors and