The generation of electricity from utility-scale solar projects in the United States during June 2015 was 31 times that of the output from utility-scale solar in June 2005, and now accounts for roughly half a percent of all US electricity production, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The latest data released by the EIA shows that the US hit a monthly record high for solar electricity generation from utility-scale facilities (defined as those with a capacity of 1 MW or more) in June, with a cumulative total of 2,765 GWh, which is a 35.8% increase over that produced in June of 2014.
According to the EIA, utility-scale solar PV capacity in June increased by 47.5%, when compared to June 2014, with solar thermal capacity increasing by 18.1% over the same period.
Early utility-scale solar generation efforts focused primarily on solar thermal, not solar PV, and from 2005 to 2010, the majority (85%) of solar electricity was produced by large solar thermal plants. Beginning in 2011, dropping costs for solar PV resulted in higher growth rates for utility-scale PV than for solar thermal, and as of 2014, the lion’s share (86.6%) of solar electricity in the US is now generated from PV plants.
The majority of the growth in utility-scale solar in the US has happened in California, with 56.5% of the total solar generation coming from the Golden State, followed by Arizona (13.4%), North Carolina (6.7%), Nevada (6.4%), and New Jersey (3.3%).
Greentech Media’s Stephen Lacey writes that more than 7 GW of utility-scale solar projects are due to be completed next year, which will boost these solar PV numbers even higher, and solar developers are bidding on large PV projects at an average of less than $0.04 per kWh, so it appears that large-scale solar will continue its rapid growth, eventually bringing more affordable clean electricity to the big energy markets.