Solar Millennium

Solar Hype and Hope

Utility-scale projects suffer growing pains.

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.

Chicken-Egg Solution

Solar and wind developers learn to shift project risk to the grid.

As Google says, “the wind cries for transmission.” But the opposite is true as well: without new wind and solar energy projects, we would not need to build so many new transmission lines. Each side needs the other, yet neither dares declare too soon, and risk weakening its bargaining position. That is, until one utility in California found a way to break the impasse, with each side scratching the other’s back — thus putting to rest the age-old question, “Which came first, the . . . ?”