Southern California Edison
(April 2011) GE Hitachi and Lockheed Martin team up on nuclear reactor controls; Elster wins metering contract in New Hampshire; Xcel hires Bechtel for nuclear services in Minnesota; Mitsubishi builds transformer HQ in Memphis; Northeast Utilities taps Siemens for transmission projects; Iberdrola sells wind output to FirstEnergy; Consumers and DTE invest $400 million to upgrade pumped storage facility; plus contracts and announcements from Alstom, URS, Areva, groSolar, Pattern Energy, S&C Electric and others.
(March 2011) TVA and EPRI demonstrate solar-assisted EV charging station; Ford unveils the all-electric Focus; Central Maine Power awards substation contracts; ERCOT deploys ABB software in nodal market; FirstSolar starts up PV plant for Southern Company and Ted Turner; plus contracts and announcements involving Open Systems International, Verizon, Suntech Power, Alcatel-Lucent, Siemens, Cisco, Elster, Sensus, Silver Spring Networks and others.
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.
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.
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 . . . ?”
(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.
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.