Manufacturers scale up for utility applications.
Lori A. Burkhart is Fortnightly’s managing editor.
Solar energy is growing fast in the United States—largely because the technology is scaling up to serve utility requirements.
The top 10 utilities’ solar megawatts grew 66 percent from 2008 to 2009, and represented an estimated two-thirds of the nation’s solar installations in 2009. A large share of that capacity came in the form of utility-scale projects—as opposed to the traditional customer rooftop market, according to a new report released May 18 by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).
And one needn’t look far to find big new solar development deals. On June 3, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved 335 MW of renewable power contracts for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), including a 290-MW solar farm project in Yuma County, Ariz. The contract is with NextLight Renewable Power LLC, which is in the process of being acquired by First Solar. The solar farm, called Agua Caliente Solar, will provide power to PG&E when it comes on line with an expected 2014 in-service date.
And while PG&E leads SEPA’s top 10 rankings for 2009 with the most solar megawatts (85.2 MW) added to the grid for the second straight year, other utilities also are pushing solar forward. For example, Florida Power & Light made the list in position four, and wasn’t even in the top 10 in 2008.