Clean Power

Published on September 3rd, 2014 | by Joshua S Hill


Large Scale Solar PV Projects At Risk, While California Powers On

September 3rd, 2014 by  

The US solar PV pipeline has been standing on shaky ground for the past few months as trade investigations put a dampener on a number of projects relying on Chinese manufacturers. NPD Solarbuzz, working from their United States Deal Tracker, have pinpointed those sectors of the industry most likely to be affected by the trade disputes.

The findings could be defined as somewhat obvious. Writing on the NPD Solarbuzz blog, Christine Beadle, an analyst with the market research firm, highlighted both the small-scale and large-scale project sectors as being potentially affected by the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations.

According to Beadle, the sector with the largest number of projects potentially affected by the trade disputes is the small-scale sector — with the 1-5 MW and 250-500 kW system size ranges containing 59% of the affected projects.

However, as Beadle explains, “most of the potentially affected capacity is in the large-scale ranges, greater than 20 MW” — which is obvious because by their very nature, the larger-scale projects contain higher capacity.

solar scale

System size range of trade-affected US PV project pipeline.
Image Credit: NPD Solarbuzz

The conclusion? The entire solar industry is suffering, because whether you’re a small-scale project supplier or you’re looking to outfit a utility-scale project, you all need the same product that has been seized on by the US Department of Commerce. Welcome to the world of market research, where sometimes the blindingly obvious will make for news.

However, in a separate blog post, again referencing the latest United States Deal Tracker numbers, Beadle delivers good news for Californians, who are once again residents of the state with the most dominant solar PV project pipeline — dominant to a factor of five!


Top 8 States by Megawatt Project Pipeline Capacity
Image Credit: NPD Solarbuzz

According to the numbers, California alone accounts for 48% of the total capacity in the country, and 30% of the total number of projects. As can be seen in the figure above, the next closest states are Nevada, North Carolina, and Arizona, each of which are apparently being driven primarily by large-scale ground-mount projects of varying sizes.

Even swapping it around to highlight the number of projects rather than sheer capacity, California still outstrips the nearest competitors, New Jersey and Massachusetts. These two markets are benefiting from an increasingly popular roof-mount systems which pushes up the number of projects while keeping the capacity at a lower level.

California 2

Top 8 States by Number of Pipeline Projects
Image Credit: NPD Solarbuzz

Beadle praises the US market though, noting that its “downstream diversity … is one of its strengths; as it allows different customer and application segments opportunities to grow in a variety of regions within the greatest US market.”

When discussing the US market, a common phrase is ‘there is no US market; there are 50 state-level markets with a layer of federal policy on top’.

So while the future state of the US solar PV market is looking somewhat shaky, their existing success and the diversity that makes the US market so singular are likely to help it weather this particular time of market unease.

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

  • Brian Donovan

    Big solar is bad solar.

    Big solar eats land, and strains the grid. It generally cost more, because you have to buy the land. It destroy habitat and farmland. It is always big money and big industry.

    As for the tariffs, the solution is dead simple:

    China: build plants in the USA.

    Problem solved.

    Then the USA will protect you from the market like it does the German owned Solarwoarld and thier pure conjecture bs lawsuit.

    But Obama and gang are pro nuclear and fracking, they hate solar, because their big donors hate it.

    Vote Green Party and Progressive Caucus, don’t waste your vote on a Reagan conservative corporatist DINO again.

    We have more than enough rooftops and parking lots for solar to provide 60+% of our total energy needs with eletric cars.

    • GCO

      I think I disagree with just about everything you said, but I’ll just address land usage.

      Only 17.5% of the the US is arable land ( ), there are tons of desertic, unproductive areas to build solar on.
      While I totally support rooftop solar, ground-mount is faster and cheaper to install, especially on a large scale. Btw, it doesn’t destroy anything: the soil won’t be contaminated or anything, and can easily be returned to its original condition during decommissioning as the infrastructure covering it was minimal.

      The country largest solar plant (and world’s #2) is Topaz, in the Carissa plains, California. It covers 25 km2 (9.5 sq.miles) total.
      Next up is Ivanpah, in the Mojave desert: 14 km2 (5.5 sq.miles) for almost the same yearly output, 1 TW⋅h. More efficient, but the tech it uses, concentrating solar, isn’t exactly adequate for rooftops.

      Anyway, build 100 of each, and you’d still use less than 1% of the State’s land.
      On the other hand, you’d now produce enough electricity for not just the whole state, but over half the country.

      • Brian Donovan

        Yes it does destroy the land in most cases. The solar panels mounts are in concrete pads. Ask the desert lovers what they think of these huge things.

        Maybe the carefully picked true “wasteland” but I doubt it.

        How much does the electricity lose on the way to it’s end users?

        What is the cost of the land?

    • Mint

      Whatever you spend on rooftop solar, you can get twice the electricity production by spending the same amount on big solar. 10 years ago that wasn’t the case, but now panels are so cheap that installation cost is the dominant factor.

      1GW of big solar puts no more strain on the grid than 1GW of natural gas plants.

      Solar on corporate structures may reduce grid strain, but residential solar definitely does not. The peak power flow there is in the evening after the sun has set.

      • Brian Donovan

        You have to buy the land.

        You lose 7% of more in transmission.

        It’s just a shift in gov incentives that is causing big solar to grow.

        • Mint

          Land is cheap away from cities. Googling, I found 80 acres of desert for $100k, ~70 miles from LA. 80 acres could have 50MW of power, so land would be much less than 1% of the solar farm cost. 70 miles transmission would add <$0.2/W.

          7% is nothing compared to the cost premium of rooftop solar, and I guarantee you'll lose at least half that going from a residential inverter to whatever homes/businesses use that power.

          You got it all wrong. Residential solar is only as popular as it is because of enormous extra incentives over big solar, namely net metering and/or feed in tariffs.

          • Brian Donovan

            You also forget the middleman: the utility has to profit, you can own your and cut the cost in half.

            You forget the concrete base, the stand, not needed for the rooftop installations.

            You forgot the expensive grid upgrade and a very expensive grid extension to your remote area. Remote means needs more grid upgraded as well.

            Now i’m not using the anomalous USA high residential rates. Germany, Australian several other countries are doing residential for less than 2$ per Wp.

            House and building build from the start for solar eliminate all the mounting hardware, eventually even replace the roofs with a 100 year roofs and power source.

          • Bob_Wallace

            This will show you the price spread between rooftop and utility solar. The cost of utility solar has the “concrete base” and “stand” costs baked in.

            The grid does not need upgrading. There’s a lot of transmission running across the desert. Much of it was put there for bringing coal-electricity from Utah and New Mexico to the West Coast.

            It would be extremely difficult to bring the price of rooftop down to the level of utility. It has to do with volume purchasing and installation efficiencies.

          • Brian Donovan

            Those grid lines were built for only a fix amount of power. You are adding more. Now or later, you have hastened the day for a grid upgrade to be required.

            Tell me how long a line did they need to connect and what VA? average for plants over a MW.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Brian, California has been terminating coal contracts for some time. LA is on track to be coal free by 2025.

          • Brian Donovan

            So you don’t know.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I had to look up the data to refresh my memory.

            The Intermountain DC Intertie (Path 27) runs 488 mile (785 km) from Utah to LA and can transfer a maximum power of 2,400 megawatts at ±500 kV.

            That’s one of several transmission lines that run from the interior deserts to the coast. It is the ‘big boy’.

            In 2007 California was importing about 27,000 GWh of coal generated electricity. By 2013 that number had fallen to about 23,000 GWh, freeing up considerable transmission capacity for new inland solar.

            Brian, I don’t think you’ve caught on to what this community is. The people who post here, for the most part had scientific and/or engineering backgrounds.

            We don’t toss out claims that we can’t back up and we do not appreciate it when others attempt to.

            We’re here in an attempt to learn from each other and we expect a very low level of bull shit from participants.

            If you’d like to participate then temper your comments. Post only those “facts” which you know to be facts. If asked to back up a statement you made then either back it up or retract what you said.

            If you simply want to participate in conversations where people toss stuff out at random then this is not the site for you.

          • Brian Donovan

            If ya looked it up, where are the links? Please only facts that are verified with a link.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sure, Brian. I have no trouble backing up what I present as fact.

            Intermountain DC Intertie.


            Reduction in California coal-electricity imports.


            If I wasn’t able to back those up I would have admitted and apologized.

            That’s how it’s done Brian. And that is what is expected from you when someone questions your facts.

          • Brian Donovan

            It seems that line already needed an upgrade just for wind, so where does it get headroom for more solar?


            The Mojave project looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere. and it does not seem to use the intertie.

            And if it’s like the other intertie, you lose 23%.


          • Mint

            First of all, your second link is not data. It’s a WAG (Wild-Ass Guess). Secondly, that’s 10x the transmission distance needed to get large scale solar into the city. There’s cheap, unused land all over the country tens of miles away from meaningful population.

            Residential solar does not have zero transmission loss, either. At times of peak production, residential consumption is low, and commercial/industrial use is high.

            Utility profits are regulated. The only reason that there’s so much rooftop solar is that utilities were forced into money-losing net metering. For the same cost to the utility, big solar could generate 2-4x the solar energy as net-metered residential solar.

          • Brian Donovan

            Best number I could find, find a better one. The intertie he wanted to use, is already used up. I’m all for displacing coal.
            Unless that land under the solar panels systme is used for something, we are killing of aland again, why?

            2-4x, so utilities are installing solar for 50 cents to 1$? I don’t think so. No, they costs are close, I bet all in, rooftop is cheaper, and utilities are just getting bigger guv help.

            Solar saves the grid on afternoon ac peaking electric from gas turbines, much more expensive electricity. But they get it for the baseload price. They object because they are often paid cost plus if private, and they like the plus part.

            Rooftop solar pretty much has zero distribution loss, a couple of blocks, maybe, a few percent might go from one neighborhood to another.

          • Mint

            How much nonsense can you cram into one post?

            A) I don’t need to find a better one, because even your source works out to only ~2% loss for 70 miles.

            B) Drop the pathetic land argument. That is not more than a couple percent of cost for big solar. An acre can support over 500kW of panels, and costs well under $2k even if grass is growing on it:

            C) I said 2x-4x from the utilities’ perspective, because that’s what happens with net metering. In California, utilities are forced to lose 20-30c/kWh of revenue when someone builds residential solar. In other areas, 10-15c/kWh. In Washington, up to 54c/kWh. Big solar can only get ~5c/kWh when selling wholesale electricity to the utilities.

            D) Rooftop solar does not have zero distribution loss. The smaller scale of inverters alone add a few percent loss that utility scale doesn’t have to deal with. It still has to go through distribution transformers, which are lossy:

            E) You would lose that bet. How can you possibly think it’s cheaper to visit a bunch of homes, climb onto the roofs, install bracketing and wiring on different geometry every time, acquire and deal with customers, etc than just laying them out on the ground en masse in one location? Look at the video I posted above. Robots are going to be laying out big solar very soon.

            F) Only a limited amount of solar (the first few percent) reduces peak load. Net load in CA now peaks at times when solar output is minimal. Electricity during those hours is not as expensive as you think.

            G) It’s not just a few blocks. Only 40% of electricity consumption is residential, and even less during most of solar’s productive hours.

          • Brian Donovan

            Already disproved all you arguments, stop wasting your time. get your bs? what is your maiin srouce? EnergyCollective?

          • Mint

            LOL you haven’t addressed even one of those points. Not A, B, C, D, E, F, or G.

            You disproved nothing. You made a stupid point about land cost without having any idea how little land costs.

            The only thing you’ve said is that rooftop solar is $2/W outside the US, but you have no idea what big solar costs there.
            “Multi-megawatt projects were being built south of Rome for €90c/W.”

            UK 34MW solar farm ~1 GBP/W:

            Spain 250MW solar farm for €275M:

            Here’s India, showing residential solar is most expensive:

            Residential solar will never be as cheap as utility scale solar. It fundamentally requires more work, and on top of that people want quicker payback than utilities do.

          • Bob_Wallace

            As I said, CA is on route to eliminating imported coal-electricity. That frees transmission lines.

            I did not say that Path 27 would be the only way to bring solar to the coast. There are a lot of transmission lines in addition to P27. You can get a hint from the wind/transmission graphic below.

            There seems to be something very wrong with the 23% loss number, as your source suspects. That may be a ‘long time ago’ number back when there were much higher conversion losses, back before mercury arc valve rectifiers were replaced by thyristor converters.

          • Mint

            I did not forget any of that.

            You forgot that the middleman is currently forced to eat losses (or pass them onto others) with net metering.

            You forgot that the base/stand etc are included in the low cost of big solar.

            You forgot that I already added costs of new transmission in my post.

            You forgot that the US has high soft costs for utility solar, too. Big solar is cheaper everywhere.

            Solar becomes really cheap when you have something like this:

            Only possible with big solar.

          • Brian Donovan

            Solar saves the utility money, about 50 cents per KWH. money.

            The USA residential solar cost are a gov driven anomaly. I don’t count them. You should either. The rest of the first world no trouble going under 2$ per Wp.

            Strip away the gov breaks, the big solar is always more expensive.

  • GCO
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