Despite the overall reduction in US electricity demand in 2009 – due to both the recession and to an increase in efficiency technology deployment; the top ten utilities in the nation added 66% more solar to the grid last year than the previous year, according to just released findings from the Solar Electric Power Association at the annual Utility Solar Conference.
The top ten utilities were able to leverage a 50% drop in panel prices, due to a glut on the market, after Spain phased out its Feed-in Tariffs.
SEPA Executive Director Julia Hamm told utility decision-makers that the new lower panel prices suggest that but all utilities should also take another look at solar electric power; not just the top ten in the country.
“If a utility’s pricing perceptions are even 12 months old, they are out of date,” she says.
The rankings included only utility-scale or aggregated distributed solar projects that were actually built or began construction in 2009, and several utilities that were directly involved in owning new solar projects. Installations on the utility side of the meter increased 267 percent from around 18 MW in 2008 to 65 MW in 2009 and made up 19 percent of the survey’s total, up from 9 percent the previous year.
At least for California utilities, that number (built projects only) represents the tip of the iceberg. There are many more projects contracted-for than built or breaking ground, due to the snail’s pace of California solar approvals.
By contrast with the speedy approvals that allow oil and gas companies to virtually dispense with environmental reviews, solar projects can languish for two years or more, awaiting local approval.
One of the report’s key conclusions is that utilities’ solar portfolios are on the cusp of significant changes. More and more states are adding renewable energy standards (now 35). Climate legislation in the Senate may create a Hail Mary pass at the last minute, as Healthcare and Financial regulation was able to.
“One thing is clear from these results,” urged Hamm. “Now is a great time to take another look at solar electric power.
Image: Recharge News
Susan Kraemer writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate and GreenProphet and has been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design she brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention: solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. Follow Susan @dotcommodity on twitter.