Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has released its latest report which showed that U.S. electric utility providers are including more and more solar power generation in their portfolios and much of this increases is happening outside of California. (Click here for the Executive Summary of the report)
The Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA) fourth annual Top 10 Utility Solar Rankings report analyzes utility solar electricity markets in the United States, focusing particularly on the top utilities that are driving solar electric power growth. The SEPA Top 10 Utility Solar Rankings measure a utility’s newly installed solar power and include photovoltaic and concentrated solar power technologies interconnected between January 1 and December 31, 2010. There are two rankings categories: Solar Megawatts, which measure a utility’s total solar capacity added that year, and Solar Watts-per-Customer, which is a measure of the utility’s new solar installed divided by its number of customers.
The results are intriguing and bode well for the future of solar throughout the U.S. The top 10 ranked utilities integrated 561 megawatts (MW) of solar electricity capacity in 2010, representing 100% growth since 2009. Seven of the utilities on the the SEPA list are from states outside of California and four of the top-ranking utilities were located in the Eastern United States. In addition, SEPA found that 63% of the utilities from outside of California are the largest percentage accounted. Also in 2010, thirty utilities reported owning 140 MW of solar, as opposed to purchasing the power from facilities owned by others, which represents a stunning 300% increase over 2009.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) topped the Solar Megawatt ranking in 2010 with 157 MW of solar power while Florida Power & Light Company (FPLC) was in second place 82 MW of added solar capacity (for FPLC, this is amazing considering that Florida has virtually no state solar incentives). New Jersey’s Public Service Electric & Gas Co. (PSEG) was in third place with 75 MW of solar capacity added in 2010.
In the Solar Watts-per-Customer category, California’s Silicon Valley Power was first by adding 40-watts per customer with PSEG at 35.2-watts per customer coming in second place (again, this is amazing considering that PSEG is an investor-owned utility with more than 2.1 million customers). In third place was Hawaiian Electric Company Inc. with 33.2-watts per customer despite being domiciled on one of the smallest states in the U.S.
SEPA draws some broad conclusions from this report. First, solar in California is not nearly as dominant as it used to be with over 60% of new solar coming online outside of California. This trend has been born out in other reports namely by the Solar Energy Industries Association which showed that in 2010 California installed approximately 258.9 megawatts which represented less than 30% of the total U.S. solar power market share. States such as New Jersey with with 137 megawatts of installed solar power in 2010 (representing almost a 140% increase over the 57.3 megawatts installed in 2009 and 517% increase over the 22.5 megawatts of installed New Jersey solar in 2008) are beginning to make huge strides nationally. In addition, New Jersey became the second state (California) to install over 100 MW in a single year in 2010. Other states saw dramatic increases in solar capacity as well. Arizona installed 54 megawatts of solar and Colorado installed 53.6 megawatts of solar each of which was double the prior years output (21.1 megawatts solar in Arizona and 23.4 megawatts of solar in Colorado).
The other major trend that SEPA notes is the changing the profile of solar electric power in the United States: centralized projects and utility ownership. Traditionally, solar markets have relied on distributed PV for most new capacity. Utilities are beginning to look towards centralized solar projects (large scale projects where the power is sold to a utility) as eight centralized projects greater than 10 MW each were installed in 2010. This includes two of the largest solar projects in the nation: the 48 MW Copper Mountain project, in Nevada and the 30 MW Cimarron project, in New Mexico. The represents an attempt on the part of utility providers to diversify the sources of energy that they are providing to their consumers, whether it is obtaining electricity by purchasing power from solar systems, such as rooftop PV or procuring and/or owning large amounts of solar generation resources such as concentrated solar power.