Note: News items remain on our Solar News of Note page for approximately three months and are then moved to this archives page, dating back to 2016.
Bastrop County recorded a “first” in December as Texas Property Assessed Clean Energy (TX-PACE) financing for the Elgin General Store solar system was secured. The $120,000 PV system will generate over 94,000 kWh of electricity annually and demonstrates the value PACE provides for rural communities and small businesses.
Beginning in December, CPS Energy will modify its solar rebate program to a flat rate for residential installations with a $500 bonus for locally sourced modules and a 25 percent penalty for using a non-local installation company, reported pv magazine. After the first $9 million is spent, the second $5 million is reduced to $1,500 per project. The program previously offered a per watt rebate.
As per this December pv magazine report, the 100 MW 15-year solar PPA leveraged the buying power of five participating municipal utilities that reviewed a diverse mix of proposals from 37 companies. NBU says that with this record low solar purchase, 40% of their electricity will come from renewables: wind, hydro, landfill gases, and of course solar power.
CoServe, based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said it will buy an additional 26.5 MW of power from a facility to be built in west Texas that will deliver power under a more flexible and shorter-term contract than a typical PPA, reports Platts in December. A unique contract provision is that 7X will remove intermittent variability associated with solar generation from the facility by delivering fixed hourly blocks of energy.
This November pv magazine article notes how wind and solar are bringing down wholesale power prices and making them more stable. The fundamental magic of this, as detailed in The Economic Value of Renewable Energy to Texas, is the phenomenon of zero marginal cost which will increasingly drive more expensive and uncompetitive conventional power plants off the grid in wholesale power markets.
A plan to lease rooftop space on homes and businesses for solar panels has earned the city of Georgetown $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of the U.S. Mayors Challenge according to this October article. While Georgetown is the first and largest city in Texas to secure 100 percent of its purchased power from renewables, there are concerns related to transporting that energy over long distances. City officials say installing distributed solar+storage will bolster cost efficiency and reliability of the city’s renewable energy sources.
The Austin City Council greenlighted another major solar deal in October under a 15-year power purchase agreement at a cost below peak market prices, according to Solar Industry magazine. The large utility-scale project is located near Austin, thereby avoiding congestion issues or loss of power in transmission. When the project is completed in 2020, Austin will have nearly 940 MW of utility-scale solar under contract and will generate more than 52% of all energy demand from renewable energy sources.
New Braunfels Utilities (NBU), Bryan Texas Utilities, Denton Municipal Electric, Garland Power and Light, and the Kerrville Public Utility Board have teamed up to create the purchasing power necessary to fund their commitment to renewable generation. With the exception of Denton Municipal Electric, this is their first entry into large scale solar, according to this September pv magazine report.
The most recent Generator Interconnection Status Report (GIR) from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) shows future generation assets dominated by wind and solar. Of 80 GW of projects at various levels of approval, 38 GW are wind power, 30 GW are solar, 12 GW are gas, with zero coal. Although some of these projects may never be built, this August pv magazine article indicates how rapidly the Texas power grid is going green.
Along with peak midday demand records in July comes peak midday prices, with wholesale electricity hitting the maximum legal price of $9.00/kWh! This pv magazine article suggests the Texas marketplace is prepping for this new normal with large-scale solar+storage.
If our readers ever tire of reading Texas solar superlatives, we will stop reporting them. Until then, Canada’s Innergex announced the July acquisition of the currently largest Texas solar facility, reports pv magazine. The Phoebe project is located in Winkler County and will use First Solar’s Series 6 thin-film modules, which do not incur import duties. Executive Director’s note: 7X Energy, an Austin based utility scale solar developer, was the original developer of the Phoebe project, later partnering with Longroad Energy prior to the recent sale.
Texas is finally getting some Texas-sized energy storage – and it is being added to Texas’ largest solar power plant. This June pv magazine article reveals that Vistra Energy plans to add a 10 MW / 42 MWh lithium-ion battery adjacent to the 180 MW-AC Upton County Solar 2 power plant. The record-setting solar facility went into operation on June 4 and the storage is scheduled to come online in Q4 2018.
The city’s Public Utilities Board voted unanimously to approve a 15-year contract with NextEra for the output of the 100 MW Bluebell 2 solar plant to be built northwest of San Angelo. This May pv magazine article says the project will be completed by November and that power purchase agreement (PPA) costs are in line or below average wholesale electricity rates.
One of the remarkable things about the La Loma community solar farm is where it’s located. Just a short drive east of Austin’s downtown, it’s the type of place you’d expect to see new homes going up. Instead, these 16 acres hold enough panels to power 440 households and is part of a unique experiment that could help utilities store more electricity in the future, according to this April Austin Monitor article.
Solar capacity within Dallas city limits grew by more than a third in 2017, according to this April Dallas Morning News article. Yet, differences in electricity markets have created a solar split in Texas, with large cities like Dallas and Houston trailing smaller towns like Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio in local solar adoption.
Houston rooftop solar rose to 9.5 megawatts of solar power, up 19 percent from 8 megawatts in 2016, ranking 34th according to the April Environment America survey. The Houston Chronicle says solar has advanced slowly in the city because Texas does not offer incentives to residents and businesses installing panels. The state, however, is seeing rapid growth in large, utility scale solar power. ERCOT expects solar capacity to reach about 2,000 megawatts by the end of 2018.
An analysis by Environment America shows San Antonio moved up two spots to rank number six in solar capacity within the city limits, trailing only Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, Phoenix, and San Jose. Designated a “Solar Star” city, this April Rivard Report article shows San Antonio installed 44 megawatts of solar capacity in 2017 and is the only Texas city to rank in the Top 10. Austin trails San Antonio in 17th place, the only other Texas city in the Top 20.
Texas has made remarkable strides in recent months as a national leader in both solar energy adoption and smart home creation. This March Texas Tribune article highlights how these technologies complement each other and promise Texas homeowners added energy efficiency and new benefits in comfort, convenience, affordability and reliability.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas expects total solar power capacity to reach about 2,000 megawatts by the end of 2018, up from 1,100 megawatts last year and just 15 megawatts in 2010. Rapid solar growth could further upset the state’s power mix and add to the downward pressures on prices that have buffeted merchant power companies, according to this March Houston Chronicle report.
Hotter summers, more air conditioning, and economic growth will result in record peak electricity demand this summer, pv magazine reports in this March article. Fortunately, a boom in large solar projects in west and north Texas is adding capacity at a rapid pace. ERCOT expects utility-scale solar will be the largest source of new generation by summer to help keep the AC running.
‘Demand flexibility’ is Rocky Mountain Institute’s term for the capability of water heaters, air conditioners, plug-in electric vehicles, and other loads to provide a massive set of benefits to the grid — if they’re smart enough to handle it. This February Greentech Media article reports Texas could avoid $1.5 billion per year in annualized generator, transmission, and distribution capital costs, along with $400 million in avoided fuel costs.
Houston, home to some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, is finally finding a niche in attracting renewable energy companies. Overshadowed by the city’s fossil-fuel heritage, it has become home to wind project developers, renewable energy transmission companies and residential solar firms that together employ thousands according to this February Houston Chronicle report. The city’s deep talent pools are skilled at putting together large energy projects and managing electricity supplies on the grid.
Solar energy is still a great investment in San Antonio despite the recently imposed tariffs by the Trump administration, according to a February analysis by the Rivard Report. CPS Energy also announced plans to ask its board of trustees for an additional $15 million for its solar rebate program and released a Request for Proposals for the next phase of the successful 2015 Roofless Community Solar program.
A February report from pv magazine indicates that Mission Solar Energy will double its manufacturing capacity to 400 MW per year by opening a new facility in San Antonio. The article states that the company will soon be one of the largest module makers in the United States, another indication that the new solar tariff may boost U.S. manufacturing.
A subsidiary of Hanwa Q Cells, the Korean solar manufacturer, broke ground in January on Texas’ largest solar plant consisting of 685,000 tariff-free modules, pv magazine reports. Austin Energy will purchase the power over a 25-year contract period. The Midway facility will boost the Austin utility-scale solar plant fleet to over 600 MW when completed later this year.
Mission Solar Energy announced in January that it will hire 50 new employees to fulfill product demands this year, according to Renewables Now. The announcement came the same day President Trump approved recommendations to impose tariffs on imported solar cells and modules, exempting 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells.
Austin’s municipally owned utility, Austin Energy, did not offer exact details on the megawatt-hour price for the December solar agreement. However, based on some back-of-the-envelope calculations, GTM Research estimates the record low cost hovers between $23.50 and $27.25 per megawatt-hour. It could even be as low as $21 per megawatt-hour.
Austin Energy currently produces enough renewable electricity to meet 40 percent of its 475,000 customers’ power needs. This latest December power purchase agreement of 150 MW from Intersect Power will increase Austin Energy’s utility scale solar capacity to 792 MW and is projected to have a beneficial impact on customer bills, according to pv magazine. Along with 1,400 MW of wind power, Austin Energy is expected to become 51 percent renewable in 2020.
This December pv magazine article indicates that the compromise approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas allows the utility to impose a $30 minimum bill on new customers – the highest seen to date anywhere in the nation. However, the plan grandfathers current solar customers for 20 years from having to pay the minimum bill. In addition, solar customers will not be slotted into a separate rate class.
Houston solar project produces two important “firsts” for Texas PACE financing
The Texas PACE Authority reports on the December closing of financing for a 45 kW solar power system for the Regency Inn & Suites in Houston. This is the first Texas hotel to utilize PACE financing and the first PACE solar project for the City of Houston. The availability of incentives and tax deductions are further motivating hotels around the country to invest in solar.
A December GTM Research report reveals that a Texas storage project dominated the 41.8 megawatts that power companies and utilities installed in the 3rd quarter, a 46 percent year-over-year surge. Prices for lithium-ion battery packs have fallen 24 percent from 2016 levels, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
With the final recommendations of the International Trade Commission just a few days away, this November pv magazine article reports that the contractor engaged to build the project has been told not to start construction until the price of modules has been clarified at the federal level. Although the project has not been canceled, a company spokesman has seen other projects canceled amid uncertainty surrounding module prices.
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered a family of anode materials that can double the charge capacity of lithium-ion battery anodes — a breakthrough that may open the door to cheaper, smaller and lighter batteries. This October article states the process saves time and materials, producing an anode with twice the charge storage capacity of a typical lithium-ion battery anode, using only two simple steps instead of the multiple steps traditionally required.
Transmission provider AEP has proposed to defer transmission upgrades for less costly Li-ion battery storage, as reported in this October Utility Dive article. The case is specific to Texas, but the issue is shared in many states like Texas that operate both regulated and deregulated power markets. Energy storage is both load and generation, which creates tricky challenges for regulators.
Luminant’s October announcements of the closure of two economically challenged power plants in Central Texas and another in northeast Texas will remove 4.1 GW of coal-powered capacity. This pv magazine article suggests the retirement of these plants bodes well for the state’s solar market. About 25 percent of the 24 GW of solar projects in the state’s interconnection queue are expected to be completed.
A long and contentious rate case was finally settled in favor of solar customers, according to this October pv magazine article. Dallas-based utility Oncor agreed to withdraw its plan to add bizarre fixed charges and a byzantine rate structure to the bills of solar consumers. The utility did secure a 3.4% base rate increase for all residential ratepayers. Oncor serves 10 million customers in north and west Texas, including the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro area.
Texas enjoys strongest quarter ever, ranking second among states in installed solar capacity in second quarter 2017
Texas added 378 MW in 2Q17 in its strongest quarter ever, placing it second among states in installed solar capacity. Texas is also projected to be the second largest state over the next five years, according to this September Solar Industry magazine article. Solar ranked second to natural gas in the first half of 2017 in new electric capacity, registering 22 percent of the total.
This July pv magazine article discusses a discriminatory El Paso Electric rate proposal for solar system owners. Customers with solar panels will suddenly be hit with a higher monthly customer charge, as well as a new charge, a demand charge. Last year, a similar proposal by the investor owned utility was rejected.
The City Council has decided to host solar on 5 city buildings under the CPS Energy SolarHost program. According to this July pv magazine article, the City will receive a 3¢ per kWh credit for the solar energy produced, saving almost $12,000 each year. PowerFin Partner installs and maintains the systems at no cost to the city.
Fifteen-plus MW of on-base solar and 50 MW of wind, the first hybrid renewable project to serve the U.S. Army, was put in service in June at Fort Hood, north of Killeen. Investorideas.com notes the system design includes microgrid-ready capabilities, providing the ultimate energy security of independence from the grid, as the military leads the march toward energy independence.
As the latest development in the boom taking place across Texas, Southern Company announced the commissioning of the 102 MW Lamesa solar plant, according to this May pv magazine article. ERCOT had previously listed Lamesa as one of 19 solar projects with interconnection agreements and anticipates 879 MW of utility-scale solar will come online this year.
The City of San Antonio announced in May that it, and CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipally owned utility, have been selected for national recognition for programs and practices that make it faster, easier, and cheaper to go solar. A SolSmart designation is a signal that the community is “open for solar business,” helping to attract solar industry investment and generate economic development and local jobs.
Texas solar is beginning to move the ERCOT needle, according to this May pv magazine article. After hitting a record peak demand last August of over 71 GW, ERCOT is planning for 73 GW of capacity for summer 2017. Of this, utility-scale solar is expected to provide 603 MW, a small but growing contribution. ERCOT expects another 879 MW of solar PV will come online in 2017 and 976 MW by next summer.
Over 20,000 SunPower 20-percent efficient E-Series solar panels are being installed in April on steel carport structures at the new Toyota North America headquarters in Plano, Clean Technology Business Review reports. The facility will be the largest Texas corporate office on-site solar installation, among non-utility companies, and will provide approximately 33% of the headquarters’ energy needs.
CPS Energy, Toyota and PowerFin Partners teamed up to debut a half-acre solar facility at the San Antonio auto plant in early April, as per the San Antonio Business Journal. The SolarHostSA program allows residents and businesses to get solar panels installed for free and credits on their electric bill in exchange for leasing their rooftop or acreage to the program. Toyota expects to save $15,000 per year.
Approximately 1.2 million solar panels officially came online today, according to this April 5 announcement by Southern Company. The East Pecos solar facility will provide Austin Energy 120 MW of solar power via a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement. The facility supplements the 158 MW Roserock solar farm inaugurated in December, bringing Austin one step closer to its target of 55 percent renewable energy by 2025. You can view in real-time Austin’s renewable power generation.
Serving 10 million customers in north and west Texas, including the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, Oncor has proposed a weird mix of demand charges and fixed charges for its residential PV customers, according to pv magazine. This March Madness intended to stop distributed solar with rate design is the latest utility incursion into territory that regulators tend to forbid.
With an estimated 18,940 gigawatt-hours of rooftop solar generation potential per year, Houston leads the nation according to a March 14 analysis. The Houston Business Journal reports that Google calculated how much solar power could be collected if rooftop solar panels were installed at more than 60 million buildings nationally. San Antonio ranked fourth among cities with the most solar potential.
On February 22 the Houston City Council voted to increase the size of its power purchase agreement with a solar farm near Alpine from 30 to 50 megawatts in return for an 8 percent price reduction for each kilowatt-hour purchased. With 10.5 percent of the City’s electricity needs now powered by solar, Houston leads all municipal governments in the U.S. for such purchases.
Under a renewed rebate plan, the San Antonio Business Journal reports that CPS Energy set aside $15 million for residential and commercial solar projects. Beginning February 3rd, the utility will rebate 60¢ per watt to promote rooftop solar and an additional 8¢ per watt for modules made by local manufacturer Mission Solar Energy. Inverters made locally by KACO new energy will receive another 2¢ per watt rebate.
A Bryan family-owned retailer, RDM Pros, became the first business in Brazos county and the first retailer in Texas to use PACE. The loan will finance a 20.8 kilowatt solar system and other efficiency upgrades. This project represents an inflection point in the Texas PACE program, as small retail properties make up 99% of commercial buildings in Texas, according to this January pv magazine article.
As CPS Energy is nearing completion of the build-out of its west Texas solar farms, their supplier, Mission Solar Energy, has turned its attention to selling modules to the residential and commercial markets. The exact number of layoffs will be not be made public until February 3, 2017, according to the San Antonio Business Journal.
Ringing in the 2017 new year, Hays County joins Travis and Williamson counties to form a three-county central Texas PACE region. Businesses and non-profits in communities including Buda, Dripping Springs, Kyle, and San Marcos can now access property-assessed clean energy financing.
Hidalgo and Nueces Counties adopt PACE ordinances
In November and December Hidalgo County and Nueces County, respectively, became the 10th and 11th local governments in Texas to adopt the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program for energy efficiency and energy generation upgrades.
San Antonio solar company to sell West Texas project to Warren Buffett company
OCI Solar Power has signed a purchase agreement to sell the 110 MW Alamo 6 solar farm to a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, according to this December San Antonio Business Journal report. Municipal utility CPS Energy will purchase the power from the facility, which is currently under construction in Pecos County.
Aggieland joins the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) bandwagon
Keeping PACE in Texas (KPT) reports that in mid-October Brazos County has become the ninth local government to adopt the “PACE in a Box” ordinance (a model being adopted in numerous counties). Small businesses and industrial companies can now access this convenient financing vehicle to retrofit their properties with more efficient technologies or renewable energy.
Texas utility-scale solar boom in full swing
The September commissioning of a 106 MW North Texas solar farm is the latest manifestation of the renewable energy boom occurring in the state, pv magazine reports. Of the 10 GW of U.S. solar currently under construction, the Lone Star State hosts over 1 GW.
California “Duck Curve” analysis suggests Texas could be next
Growing Texas utility-scale solar capacity could mean ‘the duck’ will migrate to Texas. This North America Clean Energy article explores an October analysis of the California phenomenon and its potential to occur elsewhere, creating similar grid-integration challenges for renewables.
3.9 GW of Texas solar by end of decade expected to lower prices
Cheap solar energy threatens to depress electricity prices during peak midday hours, when generators profit most, according to an October report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Large-scale solar marks the latest threat to the coal- and natural gas-fired power producers in the Texas market.
San Antonio solar manufacturer lays off 87 employees
Facing stiff competition from manufacturers in China, the San Antonio Business Journal reports Mission Solar Energy will discontinue solar cell production and concentrate on assembly of solar modules. As revealed to employees on September 30, the company plans to purchase solar cells from an undisclosed Asian supplier, where costs are much lower.
Houston City Council approves Solar Ready construction provisions
Houston became the first major Texas city to adopt a Solar Ready rooftop construction code in an unanimous vote. Solar Ready establishes guidelines for builders and architects to design-in appropriate rooftop space so the homeowner can easily add solar panels in the future. This September Sierra Club report hopes Houston’s example will be copied throughout the state.
Are electric utilities grasping for justification to derail rooftop solar?
As recently as this summer, Texas monopoly utility El Paso Electric unsuccessfully trotted out the tired, specious argument that their rooftop solar customers should pay more for the harm inflicted on non-solar ratepayers. This September Renewable Energy World article suggests the argument has been studied to death.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) wins over Fort Bend County
The Fort Bend County Commissioners Court officially adopted the PACE program on September 9. PACE offers a financing option for business owners to address energy efficiency and onsite generation improvements. Fort Bend County becomes the 6th Texas County to adopt the program.
San Antonio is building over 1,000 solar-powered bus-stop shelters
On September 2 the San Antonio Business Journal reported that Metropolitan Transit debuted its “NextGen” bus stops. Solar panels requiring only six hours of sunlight each day to fully charge a storage battery are paired with energy-efficient LED fixtures to provide all-night lighting at each bus shelter.
El Paso County adopts PACE program for financing renewable upgrades
El Paso became the 5th Texas county to adopt a county-wide PACE program when the Commissioners Court approved property assessed clean energy on August 29 in a unanimous vote. The Texas PACE Authority (TPA) was selected to administer the program.
San Antonio Credit Union installs rooftop solar on 11 of its sites
San Antonio Federal Credit Union installed 261 kW of rooftop solar, according to a September 1 report by the San Antonio Business Journal. Rooftop solar panels now adorn the credit union’s headquarters building off Interstate 10, nine of its branches, and its office in Houston.
Allen City Council votes to continue rooftop solar restrictions
Allen, TX is one of the few North Texas cities that prohibit street-facing rooftop solar panels. In spite of intensive grass-roots lobbying by solar advocates, the city voted to retain these restrictions on August 23. Council did revise the ordinance to allow other solar configurations, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Texas regulators approve settlement between El Paso Electric and solar advocates
On August 18 Utility DIVE reported that the Texas Public Utilities Commission approved a settlement to drop a demand charge and a special monthly charge that El Paso Electric, a monopoly utility, had proposed and targeted at customers who invest in rooftop solar. The settlement was supported by various pro-solar parties.
H-E-B spending $10 million on Central Texas solar
The dominant grocery chain in Texas has installed solar power systems on 20 of its Austin-area stores and two distribution centers, as reported by 512tech on August 11. These H-E-B installations are ready to be switched on and feature 11,364 panels able to produce 4.9 million kilowatt-hours of power a year. The company says it plans to add more Texas stores to the solar campaign in coming years.
Solar proponents spearhead grass-roots effort to repeal Allen, TX ordinance restricting solar panels
The North Texas Renewable Energy Group and Plano Solar Advocates have teamed up with Allen residents to lobby changing a 2012 ordinance. The ordinance is an outlier among North Texas cities in prohibiting panels on street-facing roofs. The Dallas Morning News reports on August 12 that solar proponents worry that such a strict restriction in the city could slow solar’s growth.
El Paso Electric withdraws (for now) proposal to charge homeowners a special fee for rooftop solar
El Paso Electric, a monopoly utility supplying the City of El Paso and environs, pulled back from its 2015 proposal to charge solar homeowners a special monthly fee of up to $11. On July 21 a settlement among the utility, the city, and advocacy groups was submitted to the Texas Public Utilities Commission [see item above re final approval]. A utility spokesperson stated, however, that they would return with additional anti-solar tariff proposals, according to this Texas Observer article.
H-E-B distribution center begins using electricity from 1.2 MW rooftop installation
In mid-July H-E-B, one of the nation’s largest grocery chains and headquartered in Texas, announced that it was now using energy from a 1.2 MW solar intallation on the roof of its regional distribution center in Weslaco. H-E-B stated the 3,000 solar panels represent the largest rooftop solar installation in Texas. For additional details, see an article in the Mid-Valley Town Crier.
Solar Car Challenge launches annual race in Fort Worth, attracts aspiring female engineers
On July 17 students from 22 high school students across the country positioned their solar-powered cars at the starting gate in Fort Worth, “revved” their solar engines (not really; that would waste energy!), and started a race to Minneapolis. An article in the Dallas Morning News focused on how this annual event is beginning to draw young female students into the excitement of designing and building the cars.
National trade organization predicts Texas will become fastest-growing state in solar energy
In late June the Solar Energy Industries Association published its periodic update of growth in solar energy installations and concluded that “Texas is on track to become the fastest-growing utility-scale solar market in the U.S. within the next five years.” With 566 MW currently installed, the state is expected to add 4,600 MW within five years.
ERCOT study predicts that almost all new generation in Texas will be solar
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s “independent system operator,” has predicted that the overwhelming majority of additions to Texas generation capacity will come from solar energy over the next fifteen years. In some of the eight scenarios analyzed in ERCOT’s update to its Long-Term System Assessment, solar would represent all new generation. See ERCOT’s Powerpoint presentation, as posted to its website. For third-party summaries, see an article in Electric Co-op Today and a commentary by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Better Business Bureau of Forth Worth gives “F” to Global Efficient Energy, asks it to resign
The BBB of Forth Worth asked Global Efficient Energy, a solar installer and installation firm, to resign its membership, after giving the company an “F” rating. The BBB took the action in early June, reporting that the company received more than 100 customer complaints over the past year, to which it had either not responded or left unresolved. See an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Texas Solar Energy Society has also received customer complaints about this company’s practices. The company has never been a business member of TXSES. NOTE: A June press release by the Fort Worth BBB noted that the GEE owner had another company–Envismart. TXSES has learned that staff from GEE are now representing Envismart and the GEE website has changed to that name.
7.5 MW of solar at Toyota’s new North American headquarters in Plano
Toyota is currently building a large new North American headquarters in Plano, Texas. The parking lots will have solar panels on top–a total of 7.5 MW. The panels will deliver 25% of the complex’s total energy needs. For more details, see this article in the Dallas Morning News.
U.S. DOE adds San Antonio to national program of solar energy training for veterans
In mid-May the U.S. Department of Energy added the Army and Air Force’s Joint Base in San Antonio, plus four other locations in other states, to its Solar Ready Vets training program. The training provider in San Antonio will be Alamo College System’s St. Philip’s College. For more details on the program, see an article in the Imperial Valley (CA) News.
Study concludes that shift away from coal is due to market forces
A study released in mid-May concluded that it is old-fashioned market forces that are driving the shift away from using coal to generate electricity in Texas. The study was undertaken by the Brattle Group, a nationally respected consulting firm that performs research for utilities, utility regulators, and others. For more information and a link to the full report, see an article in the Texas Tribune.
Brownsville and Plano are designated “SolSmart” cities; will get national assistance
This spring Two Texas cities–Brownsville and Plano–have been given the designation of “SolSmart” cities by a new program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. They will receive technical assistance from national solar and local government experts related to “best practices” as they proceed to cut red tape and improve local solar market conditions. For more information on this program, see the SolSmart website.
Dallas County becomes sixth local government to approve PACE ordinance
On May 11 the Dallas City Council became the sixth local government in Texas to approve adoption of “PACE-in-a-Box.” This is a model ordinance, available statewide, that allows commercial buildings to use an innovative financing approach for building upgrades related to solar energy or water or energy efficiency. For more information, see the press release from the Texas PACE Authority.
Pedernales Electric Co-op to begin construction of 15 MW of distributed “community solar”
On April 29 the PEC announced it had contracted with a solar installation company to construct multiple small, distributed solar farms, each under 1 MW but totaling up to 15 MW, on sites within its territory. See the PEC press release. This is the largest commitment for such installations, often called community solar, yet made by an electric co-op in Texas.
San Antonio’s CPS starts operation of new 95 MW solar farm
CPS, the municipally owned utility for the City of San Antonio, announced in mid-April that its newest solar farm, a 95 MW facility located in Uvalde, is now in operation. The facility, called Alamo 5, employed 600 people during construction and will have 12 staff permanently on site for operation. For more details, see the article in the San Antonio Business Journal.
Texas PACE approves first solar project
Family Eldercare of Travis County announced it had finalized arrangements for the first PACE project in Texas incorporating solar energy. The organization, which provides services to older adults, will install a new, “cool” roof on the roof of its headquarters that will include 63kW of solar capacity. For more information, see the press release from Keeping PACE in Texas. For information on the innovative PACE financing program, see this video.
Report: Solar installations boost home values in energy-rich Texas
Forget a new addition or another bathroom. As it turns out, the best remodeling idea, at least in Texas, is for homeowners to put in solar panels, according to the Texas Remodel Valuation Report released in early April by the Texas Association of Realtors. See this article for more information.
Williamson County approves PACE program
Williamson County became the fourth county in Texas (after Travis, Cameron, and Willacy) to adopt the PACE-in-a-Box model developed by Keeping PACE in Texas. The City of Houston has also initiated the program. Williamson County Commissioners approved in unanimously in the first week of April.
Pedernales Electric Co-op makes loans available for rooftop solar (“on-bill financing”)
In mid-February the Pedernales Electric Cooperative (the nation’s largest electric co-op, with 270,000 meters) announced it had established a program offering loans of up to $20,000 for residential and commercial members who wish to install photovoltaic and battery storage systems on their property.
Study concludes that rooftops of big-box stores in Texas could support 5,574 MW of solar
In mid-February Environment America released the results of a study of how much solar energy capacity big-box stores in the United States could put on their roofs. For Texas, it’s 5,574 MW–enough to meet the electricity needs of 668,000 households (national average).
Solar energy jobs in Texas increased to more than 7,000 in 2015
In early February The Solar Foundation released its annual State Solar Jobs Census, which includes Texas among its fourteen unique state solar job reports. In 2015 the number of solar jobs in the state increased to more than 7,030, the sixth most in the country. The Texas-specific report in the census also names the top ten counties in the state and includes additional interesting information.
Texas gets “F” grade on net-metering policies for solar power and more
An article in the San Antonio Express News in late January reported that the Interstate Renewable Energy Council and Vote Solar gave Texas an “F” grade on net metering policies for solar energy, and a “D” grade for its interconnection policies, which govern how consumers “plug” their own solar panels into the grid.
Fort Hood breaks ground on 15.4 MW solar facility
In late January the U.S. Army announced that ground was being broken on a 15.4 MW solar array on the grounds of Fort Hood, near Killeen, Texas. Also imminent is construction of a 50.4 MW wind farm near Lubbock that will supply all its generation to Fort Hood. These two projects, combined with rooftop solar panels already operating on new buildings at the fort, will mean that Fort Hood will receive 40% of its electricity from renewable sources.
Cameron and Willacy Counties adopt PACE programs
County commissioners in two counties in the Lower Rio Grande Valley–Cameron and Willacy–adopted PACE (property-assessed clean energy) programs in mid-January. A PACE program allows commercial property owners to take out a loan for solar energy installations or energy- or water-efficiency upgrades and pay off the loan through annual, specific additions to the property tax bill. (For more information, see a short video explaining PACE.) Both counties approved the “PACE-in-a-Box” model ordinance being adopted by local governments in Texas. The next step is for each county to identify and contract with a program administrator.
“Solarize Houston” group formed
In January 2016 several solar energy advocates in Texas’ largest city, led by the Houston Renewable Energy Group, formed Solarize Houston. A “solarize” effort solicits interest from householders or owners of business property in a community who wish to get solar panels installed, and then as a group requests bids from installers. The hope is to elicit discounts for volume purchases. This approach has been successful in Plano and other cities in the nation.
Solar energy expected to grow six-fold in Texas in 2016
An article in the Dallas Morning News in early January 2016 reported that ERCOT (the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas) expects the total capacity of solar energy generation facilities to increase six-fold in 2016. The forecast is based on agreements that have already been signed. Most of that total capacity will come from large, utility-scale plants, but the article also quotes us (the Texas Solar Energy Society) in estimating that there are also more than 17,000 small solar installations on residential and commercial property around the state.
The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) released its latest numbers in December for 2018 corporate solar procurement in the United States, as per pv magazine. This is part of a boom in renewable energy procurement overall, with the 2018 capacity of 6.43 GW (wind and solar) double that of the next-biggest year, 2015. Facebook leads the pack, followed by AT&T, ExxonMobil, Walmart, Microsoft, and Apple.
In their December U.S. Solar Market Insight report, Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association highlights the impact of tariffs imposed in January. Utility Dive notes that a large part of the U.S. solar project pipeline remains on hold. While a loss of project volume is significant and can translate to fewer jobs and less money into the economy, projects are just being delayed, not cancelled.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), said solar PV electricity generation in 2018, much of it as an artifact of the 2017 growth coming into its own during its first full summer, has grown almost 29% through the first three quarters of 2018. This November pv magazine article shows wind and solar totaled 8.7 percent of all electricity generated during the first 9 months of the year.
If you double the massive growth in utility-scale solar capacity deployed in 2015 and 2016, you will get a taste of what’s coming in the 2019 and 2020 seasons, pv magazine reports. As the Investment Tax Credit begins to drop from 30 to 26 percent in 2020, a November analysis of S&P Global Market Intelligence’s installation data shows the project pipeline has risen to 23 GW.
The core challenge of climate change is that the standard way of doing things — the dirty, carbon-intensive way — is typically cheaper than newer, lower-carbon alternatives, according to this November Vox article. So what exactly drives technological innovation and improvement? A new paper in the journal Energy Policy helps to cut through the fog.
Touting environmental and economic benefits, 216 mayors representing all 50 states signed an updated letter in November calling for more deployment of solar power, according to Utility Dive. The Mayors for Solar Energy effort, organized by Environment America, also includes training and resources for local governments to encourage more solar power. The number of signatories, which includes 25 Republicans, has more than tripled since the original letter was released in December 2017.
Average prices of mono- and multicrystalline modules have fallen by 20% and 25% respectively in the first three quarters of this year, pv magazine reports. An October report by EnergyTrend forecasts total PV demand for 2018 will reach just 86 GW, while manufacturing capacity will grow to 150 GW. This overcapacity is expected to lead to global merger deals, capacity reductions and even factory closures.
LBNL releases the eleventh version of its annual Tracking the Sun report showing 5 to 11 percent installation cost reductions in 2017
The eleventh version of its annual report on solar system costs was released by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), pv magazine reports in this September article. The report includes all U.S. rooftop systems and small ground mount installations from 5 kW to 5 MW-AC. Costs continued to decline by 5 to 11 percent in 2017 with additional small reductions in the first half of 2018.
The long-awaited tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods will hit yet another slice of the solar market: inverters. The Trump administration announced tariffs of 10 percent effective September 24 and rising to 25 percent on January 1, as per this September GTM article. According to Wood Mackenzie, inverters in H1 2018 accounted for $0.21 of the $2.95 per watt installed price of residential PV systems.
GTM/SEIA reports U.S. solar slumped in 2Q18 but forecasts deployment rebounding in the second half driven by utility-scale projects
The highly anticipated U.S. Solar Market Insight on second quarter 2018 solar deployment from Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) projects a flat 2018 for solar as a whole, as per this September GTM article. Solar installation levels across all sectors fell to 2.3 GW in the second quarter, a 9 percent decrease year-over-year and a 7 percent decline versus the first quarter.
Imported solar panel tariffs imposed by the Trump administration six months ago have done little to dampen the booming solar market in the United States, according to this August InsideClimate News report. Company executives and industry analysts say that the much feared tariff effects—higher installation costs, depressed demand, and thousands of job losses—have largely been offset by other factors.
What is the absolute floor for solar energy prices? Can solar sink to a theoretical price of $14.70 per megawatt-hour by 2022?
With prices falling an average of 74 percent since 2009, this August GTM Research analysis asks the question “Is there an end to the market’s crazy-low prices?” While none of the recent record-low bid projects below $30 per megawatt-hour will come online until 2019 and 2022, the report predicts that by 2022 awarded prices in the best markets as low as $14 per megawatt-hour will become old news.
Solar panel glut is mitigating the Trump tariff effect according to SunPower, a US company that produces the bulk of its panels overseas
This late July report from Reuters provides further evidence that the steep decline in global solar module prices is offsetting the 30 percent tariff imposed on imported silicon solar panels. SunPower CEO Tom Werner noted in an interview, “If you are building a large power plant your pricing has certainly come back at least halfway to what it was pre-tariff if not all the way. It’s muting the impact of tariffs.”
U.S. solar industry gets boost from IRS ruling extending the 30% Investment Tax Credit for corporate solar projects placed in service before 2024
In late June, the Internal Revenue Service published a notice that extends the ITC for solar projects that “begin construction” prior to 2020. This ruling, explains Utility Dive, effectively extends the time a 30% ITC project can be placed in service by years, since the ITC begins to step down in 2020. Solar financiers have explicitly stated these solar power tax benefits are driving their decision-making.
The anticipated global solar module price collapse has already begun with average prices slumping to 27¢ – 37¢ per watt
Just a couple of weeks ago in early June, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted module prices would decline 34 percent by year end (see article below) due to an oversupply glut. Even in the United States, burdened with 30 percent duties on imported modules, prices have fallen 5-10% just in the last month according to a source quoted in this pv magazine article.
Solar energy prices set new record as NV Energy inks the lowest publicly-disclosed U.S. solar PPA at 2.375¢/kWh
NV Energy has signed a 25-year contract for 2.376¢/kWh for the output of a 300 MW solar power plant, according to this June pv magazine report. This represents a new record for the lowest price for solar power in the United States. Analysts have estimated that Austin Energy may have negotiated a solar agreement as low as 2.1¢/kWh in December, but that contract has not been made public.
A flood of cheap imported solar panels is likely to partially offset the effect of the Section 201 duties, according to this June pv magazine article. It may also mean the revival of projects with marginal economics and could lead to module supply contracts being renegotiated. One analyst sees U.S. module prices falling to the high 30-cent per watt range, including the tariff cost, returning prices to the early 2017 level, a year before the tariffs took effect.
Solar Reflector contributor Joshua Rhodes likens the latest Department of Energy subsidy proposal to “opioids for the coal industry,” according to this June article in Forbes. Grid operators have already decried the proposal as not in the interest of free markets and it will likely raise power prices for consumers without improving grid reliability. But the potential human costs are even more disturbing.
Following the abrupt withdrawal of government support for the nation’s solar deployment, BNEF predicts multicrystalline solar module prices will fall 34% in China this year due to an oversupply glut. Since China is by far the world’s largest solar market, lower prices are expected to spread globally. This June pv magazine article suggests the impact on the U.S. market is less clear, but lower U.S. module prices would spur additional utility-scale project development, which has been hindered by tariffs on imported modules.
The Energy Information Administration has released its latest Electric Power Monthly Update, which shows solar power generation up 33 percent in Q1 of 2018 over Q1 2017. Since the increase in generation is more than the increase in capacity, pv magazine suggests in this May article that solar projects are generating more electricity per watt of installed capacity due to increased use of single-axis tracking.
As a result of the state’s new 2019 Building Energy Code requiring solar power to be installed at time of construction on all newly built homes, this May pv magazine article lays out the case for why this move by California can revolutionize residential solar in our country. Compared to a solar retrofit, the mandate can eliminate more than half the cost of a residential system, lowering the cost to $1.12 per watt.
Although there can be significant variations in installation levels of any resource from quarter to quarter, 94 percent of new U.S. utility-scale capacity installed in Q1 was wind and solar. This May pv magazine article on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s monthly Energy Infrastructure Update spotlights the U.S. energy transition to renewables, while new natural gas capacity barely made a showing.
In this May article, pv magazine highlights a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing the cost to incentivize the massive volumes of solar power being installed is falling aggressively. Between 2013 and 2016, installed solar capacity almost tripled while the cost in tax incentives for those projects fell by almost 50 percent.
Despite all the buzz around community solar, the development of this segment has been slow. However, an early-May report by the Smart Electric Power Association (SEPA) shows community solar taking off in 2017. During 2017, pv magazine reports that 387 MW of community solar projects were installed, more than doubling the cumulative 36-state capacity deployed to date.
A late-April report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that after a ramp up in mid-2017, monthly PV module imports crashed in January and February, pv magazine reports. In apparent tariff-induced behavior, the last six months of 2017 averaged more than a gigawatt of imports per month, while January and February averaged just over 500 MW of volume.
First Solar dropped a bombshell just before its quarterly results call, reporting that it will build a new thin film solar factory in Ohio. The factory and its 500 workers will have the capacity to produce 1.2 GW of the company’s large-format Series 6 modules, according to this April pv magazine article.
Corporate adoption of on-site solar installations grew slightly to 326 MW in 2017 with Target and IKEA leading the way
The Solar Energy Industries Association’s annual report on corporate adoption of on-site solar, Solar Means Business, shows that Target remains the cumulative on-site PV capacity leader with 43 MW added last year. This April pv magazine article also notes that Swedish retailer IKEA had solar installed on the highest percentage of its U.S. facilities, 90 percent, while no other company had reached 40 percent.
Three weeks after SunPower CEO Tom Werner told Bloomberg and Reuters that his company was exploring locations to site U.S. manufacturing, the company revealed that this production will actually be the factory of its bitter foe in the Section 201 trade case, SolarWorld. This April pv magazine article says SunPower will inject fresh capital into the factory and make its P-Series shingled solar panels as well as SolarWorld’s legacy products.
In about 30 years, a wave of 35.3 million panels may reach the end of their lifespans, not counting the hundreds of millions of panels that flooded the U.S. market in the last decade that may need to be disposed of sooner. What to do with this future solar waste has been bothering many in the industry, as this April Solar Power World article reports.
Adopters of U.S. solar systems still tilt towards higher income households, but is on a downward trend
An analysis sample of 61% of all U.S. residential solar systems has found that the median income of single-family household PV adopters is $13,000 per year higher than the median of all owner-occupied households ($32,000 higher than all households), but the median income of adopters is on a downward trend. This pv magazine article cites an April NREL study which shows the median income of solar households fell from $100,000 in 2010 to $87,000 in 2016.
Analysts say tariffs on imported solar panels do not appear to be having a significant impact on what consumers pay for systems
Shrugging off tariffs, the U.S. solar industry is looking for a path toward future growth according to analysts at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in New York. This April Platts article says about two-thirds of the companies queried by online solar marketplace EnergySage said they would “absorb all or most of the tariffs” and it appears there is a stockpile of inventory building up and an oversupply situation could lead to solar panel prices quickly coming down.
EIA says 2% decline in electricity sales in 2017 is nearly identical to the levels seen more than a decade ago — in 2006
Utilities have struggled with stagnant load for years, but EIA says last year’s 2 percent drop in retail sales was due to mild weather. Sales in 2017 were 3,682 billion kWh according to this April Utility Dive article. The agency said energy efficiency played a role, but it stressed most of the decline last year came from weather-related factors and sales were roughly the same as over a decade before.
The Midwest’s primary transmission grid operator is not concerned about reliability as coal and nuclear plants close
In contrast to its neighbor to the east, PJM, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) does not see a looming reliability crisis as uneconomic coal and nuclear plants phase-out, the Energy News Network reports in April. MISO has generally been less alarmed about renewables’ impact on grid resiliency than other grid operators, and at least one study appears to support its view.
Detailed solar industry employment, now broken down by congressional district, was presented in the Solar Foundation’s annual National Solar Jobs Census for 2017, pv magazine reports in this March article. Although almost 10,000 jobs were lost in 2017, the Solar Foundation projects 2018 will see an increase in solar jobs – replacing all of the positions lost in 2017, plus a few thousand more.
Following a strong year in 2016, residential and utility-scale solar installations declined last year for the first time since 2010. The solar industry installed 10.6 GW in 2017, down 30 percent from 15 GW in 2016, according to a March report by GTM Research and the SEIA. Solar installations decreased by 3 percent in Texas in 2017, a much smaller drop than the industry experienced nationally.
Solar power grew to just over 1.9 percent of all electricity generated in the United States in 2017, while total electricity generation fell 1.5 percent versus 2016, as reported by pv magazine in February. No source of power is growing as quickly as solar, according to the Energy Information Administration.
This February report from GTM Research on The Solar Foundation’s latest National Solar Jobs Census shows that between 2016 and 2017 the industry lost 9,800 jobs. Marking the first drop ever recorded in the census since it started collecting data in 2010, it projects employment will pick back up in 2018. Detailed job data by county, metro area, and congressional district will be released soon.
With nearly 4 GW installed in the fourth quarter, this February pv magazine articles reports that GTM Research estimates 11.8 GW were installed in the full year 2017, reaching 54.5 GW cumulative capacity. Solar prices fell 3-11% from Q3 2016 to Q3 2017, which means the new 30% solar tariff will push prices back 18 months.
Despite Trump’s efforts, cheap renewables continue to make fossil fuels less profitable in 2017 even without subsidies
Rapid cost declines made wind and solar the cheapest forms of new energy in 2017, despite Trump Administration actions to improve fossil fuel economics and reduce renewable energy competitiveness. This January Forbes article cites updated levelized cost of energy data that shows clean energy continues to beat fossil fuels on economics, at a faster pace and in more locations than ever before.
When the official numbers we rely on are wrong, the whole story can be wrong. This January article in The Hill suggests that is what appears to be happening with forecasts from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). With both solar and wind power nearing two crucial tipping points, the EIA must correct their serious blind spots, implausible assumptions, and errant renewable energy outlooks of the past.
Trump issues 30 percent tariffs on imported crystalline silicon (cSi) photovoltaic modules and cells
Targeting imports from Chinese manufacturers, President Trump imposed 30 percent tariffs on all cSi imports. The tariffs will decline in 5 percent increments over a four-year span, ending at 15 percent by 2022. In a concession to U.S. companies who assemble imported solar cells into modules, the first 2.5 gigawatts of cell imports each year are exempt. GTM Research estimated that a 30 percent tariff pencils out to roughly 10¢ – 15¢ per watt, which could reduce utility-scale solar installations by 9% according to this January Utility Dive article.
In a long awaited ruling, the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously voted down Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to provide cost recovery for plants with onsite fuel supplies, according to Utility Dive. The January decision notably rejected calls from coal and nuclear plant operators to enact short-term support for struggling power plants, instead turning to regional grid operators to assess how best to enhance the resilience of the power system.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has released its November 2017 Energy Infrastructure Outlook which paints a picture of a generation mix in flux, according to this January Utility Dive article. It is unclear how the findings will factor into FERC’s upcoming decision on the Department of Energy’s controversial proposed rulemaking for coal and nuclear supports.
U.S. solar deployments in third-quarter face perfect storm, resulting in the worst quarter in two years
Amid a 51% decline year-over-year from 2016, this December GTM Research article reports that only 2,031 MW of solar was installed in the third-quarter of 2017. The weakness resulted from a variety of factors, most notably political uncertainty, rising equipment prices, a slowdown in maturing markets, and churn within residential installer rankings.
Much has been written about the disruption of coal and nuclear electricity production in the United States, but is natural gas the next existential casualty of less expensive renewable technologies? This December Clean Technica article proposes that electricity production fueled by natural gas reached a secular peak in September 2016 and will permanently decline in the United states, a harbinger for things to come on a global basis.
Solar Saves Lives galvanizes solar industry to bring life-saving power to Puerto Rico and other disaster-prone communities
In this December pv magazine interview, Solar Foundation President and Executive Director Andrea Luecke discusses how solar is a perfect tool for emergency response to natural disasters and ultimately provides a smarter source of power that creates resilience and adaptation for communities over the long term.
Unconvinced that federal government policy uncertainty has an affect on solar prices? This December GTM Research report finds that the average fixed-tilt utility-scale solar price has edged back above of the SunShot price target of $1 per watt, amid market turmoil surrounding the Section 201 solar trade petition. Although U.S. module prices increased from around 33 cents in the first quarter to 47 cents in the fourth quarter, it could have been worse, as balance-of-system costs declined.
Lazard study shows steady wind and solar cost reductions, making new solar cost-competitive with running existing coal and nuclear plants
Perhaps no single factor is driving the global exponential growth of solar and wind technologies as much as the continual reductions in cost, as pv magazine reports on this November Lazard study. Crystalline silicon utility-scale solar reached a global mean levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of $50 per megawatt-hour (MWh), falling 10% from 2016 to 2017.
Appropriate for Halloween, pv magazine reports the ITC Section 201 import recommendations on solar PV cells and modules. While the proscribed remedies are all over the map, all commissioners are recommending a combination of import restrictions with either tariffs or an import licensing fee. Bloomberg New Energy Finance characterized the proposals “workable” for the U.S. downstream industry.
As recently as August, solar installations were forecast to top out at 90 GW, growing from 74 GW in 2016. This October pv magazine article suggests solar will rise even further, due largely to the massive 52 GW China is expected to install, according to German analyst firm Bernreuter Research. The United States is way back in second place with 12.5 GW of new solar
Although solar systems are good for the environment and provide a degree of utility independence, what ultimately matters is solar’s return-on-investment (ROI), including the amount of time the system will take to pay for itself — the payback period. The payback period and ROIs are as varied in the United States as the cities in them, as this October pv magazine analysis attests.
With the outcome of the U.S. International Trade Commission’s coming vote on remedy recommendations in the landmark Section 201 trade case pending, this October GTM Research report analyses the current state of U.S. solar and what might happen if various levels of tariffs are enacted.
In late September, the U.S. International Trade Commission voted 4-0 to find cause for severe injury to a pair of U.S. solar manufacturers, Suniva and SolarWorld. The months-long investigation will now proceed to a hearing for potential remedies set for Oct. 3, after which the ITC will make a formal recommendation to the president.
The Director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council (ERCC), a utility industry coalition, argues that new trade barriers will undercut the strength of the entire U.S. electricity system, according to this September GTM Research article. With the findings of the Suniva trade case before the ITC just days away, the U.S. solar industry anxiously awaits the result.
NREL releases comprehensive report of 2010-2017 solar costs by region and sector, with and without subsidies
This September pv magazine article provides tremendously useful information on solar costs from 2010 to 2017, as compiled by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). However, the dramatic price drops over this period stem mostly from the collapse in PV module prices, showing that soft costs remain a stubborn component of U.S. solar prices, which now account for two-thirds of total residential costs.
Solar developers are suspending construction as the looming threat of U.S. import tariffs has driven up prices and reduced solar panel supplies, according to this September Renewable Energy World article. The crunch is an abrupt reversal for the U.S. solar industry, which six months ago was awash in inexpensive panels. Developers say prices have swelled by about 40 percent in the past four months.
The U.S. solar market grew 8% year-over-year with 2.4 GW installed in the second quarter, according to pv magazine coverage of the September GTM Research report. Growth was strong in the non-residential sectors while the residential solar market fell 8% from the same quarter last year. The impact of the Suniva trade case can already be seen in higher module prices during the quarter.
According to this September GTM Research report, a record breaking 32 megawatt-hours of behind-the-meter storage capacity was deployed across the United States in the the second quarter. In total, 50.4 megawatt-hours of storage capacity was deployed, rising 6 percent from the same quarter last year.
The U.S. Energy Information’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly reports in August that renewable energy sources remain in a statistical dead heat with nuclear power for electricity generation through June 30, with each providing roughly 20 percent of the total. However, the trend line clearly favors a rapidly expanding market share for renewables, reports Renewable Energy World.
The August IHS Markit forecast significantly raises its solar installation expectations to 90 GW in 2017 from its April forecast of 79 GW, pv magazine reports. Due largely to the continuing installation boom in China, the global PV module supply chain may be nearing the upper end of its production capacity.
MarketWatch reports that the August 21 solar eclipse will challenge grid operators with sizable and rapid solar energy generation losses and the whiplash effect of that energy returning to the grid as the eclipse runs its course. The Energy Information Administration said the eclipse will obscure the sunlight at some 1,900 utility-scale solar plants around the country, creating a balancing act for utilities.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has begun including small-scale solar photovoltaics in its Short Term Energy Outlook for the first time. From April of this year to the end of 2018, EIA forecasts this typically “behind-the-meter” capacity will grow from 14.3 gigawatts to 21.9 gigawatts. In 2016, solar capacity in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors comprised 56, 36, and 8 percent, respectively.
What does “Clean Disruption” look like? Developments in the solar, battery and electric vehicle markets
In this July interview at the Intersolar North America trade show, pv magazine talks with visionary author Tony Seba about developments in the solar, battery and electric vehicle markets, and how the predictions that he made in his 2014 book Clean Disruption look three years later. Quick recap: it’s all happening sooner than anyone anticipated.
According to a leaked draft obtained by Bloomberg, a long-awaited Department of Energy grid report indicates that wind and solar do not pose a threat to grid reliability and cheap natural gas is primarily responsible for undermining baseload resources such as nuclear and coal. This July Greentech Media article speculates that these excerpts may not make it into the final version of the study.
For the first time in more than 30 years, America’s nuclear plants have fallen behind wind farms, solar panels and other renewable energy suppliers as a source of electricity, reports Bloomberg in this July article. Supplies from wind and solar rose to a record, while heavy rains in the West boosted hydroelectric power.
Global research institute says energy storage is already cost effective in commercial and industrial sector
McKinsey & Company reports recent price falls in lithium-ion technology, down to $230/kWh, has allowed storage to become a viable alternative to conventional power generators for commercial-scale PV owners. This June pv magazine article says McKinsey believes that in a matter of years households and business will be able to pair solar+storage with a small electrical generator and defect fully from grids.
The Bloomberg New Energy Outlook 2017 report, released June 15, predicts solar energy costs will drop an additional 66 percent and onshore wind energy by 47 percent by 2040, pv magazine reports. The forecast shows EV smart charging, small scale battery systems, and utility-scale storage will play a big part in smoothing out supply peaks and valleys caused by variable wind and solar generation.
For the first time, the average price of fixed-tilt, utility scale solar installed in the first quarter fell to $0.99 per watt, according to a report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. In this June article, pv magazine also notes price declines in both the residential and non-residential markets, with residential rooftop prices falling 2 percent to $2.84 per watt.
After 16 straight years of growth, Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects the U.S. residential solar market will contract this year. In this June report, 2,263 MW of residential systems are expected, down from 2,319 MW in 2016. The decline is especially evident in California as utilities switch to less generous net-metering regimes. BNEF forecasts the U.S. residential market to rebound by almost 22 percent in 2018 amid potential headwinds.
In spite of strong Texas growth, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association report that the residential solar market declined in the first quarter compared to last year. Due to a severe year-over-year 31 percent contraction in California, growth in other states could not pick up all the slack according to this May pv magazine article.
“Californians sure love producing their own power” reports pv magazine in this article reporting on the first round of 2017 funding in the Self-Generating Incentive Program supported by ratepayers. Hundreds of storage projects received incentives in May and the average cost per watt fell to $2.55 from $3.33 in last year’s funding.
Greentech Media reports EnergySage data showed a 6.25 percent decline in quoted price-per-watt of solar systems in the U.S. from the first half to the second half of 2016. This early May report suggests that as the industry matures, there is greater transparency than ever before in prices, enabling consumers to make more informed choices. Texas prices dropped 3.9 percent in the same period.
In this April forecast, IHS Markit projects that global demand for PV will reach 79 GW in 2017, a 2 percent increase on 2016’s final installation figure of 78 GW. GTM Research is even more bullish in its prediction according to pv magazine, expecting to see 9.4 percent growth, and 85.4 GW installed by year end. In the U.S. market, IHS Markit predicts a 3 GW year over year decline in 2017.
A March report by Meister Consultants Group indicates solar investments create roughly three times more direct and indirect jobs than comparable investments in fossil fuels, according to pv magazine. And unlike manufacturing jobs in other industries, solar jobs are inherently local, making it nearly impossible to outsource them. Texas could become the second-largest solar job market by 2020.
Looking beyond simply contracting for new capacity, utilities are increasingly moving into the sector themselves, Utility Dive reports in this March article. Citing a report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, utilities dominated investment in 2016, a trend that’s expected to continue as utilities will provide two-thirds of the 13.2 GW of solar capacity forecasted for 2017
While the influence of state mandates wanes, large companies are increasing their renewables commitments, in part, for long-term visibility into their electrical costs. Moody’s Investors Service notes power purchase agreements with wind farms are now available for as low as $15/MWh and $35/MWh for solar. This March Renewable Energy World article reports the emergence of corporate buyers comes as states are meeting their renewable portfolio standards (RPS) targets.
This March pv magazine article highlights the GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association estimate that the U.S. solar market will decline 10% in 2017 to 13.2 GW. The expected termination of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) drove a rush of solar development in 2016 to 14.8 GW, resulting in fewer utility scale projects to be built this year. GTM Research estimates that system prices fell 20% in 2016.
In this March article, GTM Research predicts 2017 will be the first full year since 2011 in which the residential solar market will revert to its historical preference for purchase of solar systems rather than lease. Residential solar leases peaked in 2014 at 72 percent of the market, but that share has steadily declined since, flipping to only 47 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Low-cost storage has long been the “Holy Grail” of the solar and wind industries. Economic short-term storage enables power generated from intermittent sources to more reliably meet demand day and night. Renewable Energy World reported on February 22 that large-scale storage costs have declined 40 percent since 2014, which is attracting the interest of large financial institutions willing to invest capital.
In this February report, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reveal over 14.6 GW of solar energy was installed in 2016. In an industry first, solar ranked as the No. 1 source of new electric generating capacity additions on an annual basis, accounting for 39 percent of new capacity across all fuel types.
The 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook found that consumers spent less than 4 percent of average annual household income on energy in 2016, the lowest ever recorded, as reported in this February article in Scientific American. Energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy are benefiting consumers, businesses, and manufacturers, and have made traditional electricity fuels, namely coal and oil, increasingly less competitive.
The February release of the National Solar Jobs Census 2016 by The Solar Foundation found solar employment expanded by over 51,000 workers, a 25 percent jump from 2015. Growing much faster than the overall American economy, 1 out of 50 new jobs came from the solar industry. The total of 260,077 solar workers in 2016 nearly tripled the census released in 2010. The three states with the most solar jobs were California, Massachusetts and Texas, with Texas jobs growing 34 percent.
With 150 community solar programs in place or in development, a February report from GTM Research forecasts over 400 MW will be installed this year, doubling the 200 MW installed in 2016. The community solar market in 2017 will be largely defined by utilities scaling up pilot programs. With nearly 3 gigawatts of community solar in development, it is on track to become a 500 MW annual market by 2019.
U.S. electric grid continues transition to renewables in 2016
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that solar has garnered the top spot for new generation capacity in 2016. As reported in December by ARS Technica, of the 26 GW of new capacity additions, solar contributed 9.5 GW, followed by natural gas at 8 GW, and wind at 6.8 GW. No new coal capacity was added.
Market watcher expects falling prices in 2017 across the solar supply chain
According to this December ElectronicsWeekly.com article, global prices of PV modules are expected to fall by over 10% during 2017. EnergyTrend estimates that the average selling price of modules will fall from $0.38/W at the start of 2017 to $0.33/W by the end of that year due to the severity of the oversupply situation.
All previous U.S. quarterly PV installation records surpassed
The United States installed 4,143 MW of solar PV in the third quarter of 2016 reports GTM Research in this December article. An unprecedented rate of project completions in the utility-scale segment was a key factor, representing 77 percent of the total. Fourth quarter installations are on track to surpass this historic accomplishment.
Global study addresses important solar energy repayment concern
World-wide solar energy capacity has grown from 1 MW in 1975 to 230,000 MW last year, a 45% growth rate. As reported in this December CleanTechnica article, a study published in Nature Communications tackles the question of the time necessary to recover the GHG emissions and energy consumption to deploy all this clean solar.
Mercom Capital forecasts unprecedented 2016 solar installation growth
This late November pv magazine article reports 48% year on year forecasted growth in global solar capacity. Installations are expected to total 76 GW world-wide and 13 GW in the U.S. this year. A massive oversupply of solar modules has resulted in a dramatic 30% price drop, 21% since June. Falling prices are expected to stimulate 2017 installations to levels much higher than originally feared in the U.S.
Sun Number and Zillow provide instant solar potential scores
Homeowners, prospective buyers and realtors can now access a simple-to-understand analysis of how solar-friendly a home or building may be to learn how much they might benefit from renewable solar energy. This October WebWire reports that Sun Number scores are immediately available on Zillow for more than 40 million individual buildings nationwide.
Deutsche Bank predicts a U.S. PV “gold rush” due to stunning reductions in system prices
The U.S. PV market has been notable for its stubbornly high “soft costs”, mostly related to the planning and approvals process. An October forecast predicts recent sharp declines in equipment and soft costs will drive down system payback periods to less than 5 years over the next several quarters, pv magazine reports.
Transportation sector CO2 emissions to overtake electricity
Displacement of coal by natural gas, wind, and solar for power production, as well as energy efficiency gains, has caused electric-sector CO2 emissions to decline greatly in recent years. Meanwhile, transportation-sector tailpipe emissions are trending upward and will likely overtake electricity as the nation’s top carbon producer this year, according to a September MIT report.
Global supply imbalance triggers record low solar panel prices
Since the second quarter of 2016, solar panel manufacturers have been slashing prices up to 30% with expectations of further cuts. In spite of strong growth so far this year, global supply has simply outpaced demand. Many analysts do not expect the market to come into balance for several quarters. These turbulent conditions create both winners and losers but as of September 2016, PVTech reports an extraordinary buyer’s market. See another analysis by Energy Trend.
Studies say prices for solar installations continue to decline
On August 24 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released its 2016 edition of solar price trends in the United States. Solar energy system prices are at an all-time low, declining 5-12 percent in 2015. The two reports, Tracking the Sun IX and Utility-Scale Solar 2015, take deeper dives into distributed solar price trends and the utility market, respectively.
Renewable energy provides almost 17% of U.S. electricity
According to data released August 24 by the U.S. Energy Information Agency, renewable energy in the U.S. provided 16.9 percent of electricity generation through the first half of 2016. That is up from 13.7 percent in the full year 2015, reports Renewable Energy World.
United States has over 10 gigawatts of solar PV projects under construction
GTM Research reported in early August that 10 gigawatts (or 10,000 MW) of utility-scale solar farms were under construction across the country. The report noted that just three years ago the United States installed its 10th gigawatt of PV cumulatively across all market segments (including commercial and residential), a milestone several decades in the making.
Missouri will test solar panels designed to replace concrete and asphalt
[Note: Although TXSES does not normally include news items from states other than Texas, this one was too interesting to pass up.] In mid-July NBC News reported that the Missouri Department of Transportation will carry out the first real-world application of solar panels as replacements for concrete and asphalt. The demonstration project in Conway, Missouri will first replace sidewalks. The second phase would replace pavement and additional funding is being sought for using the panels on actual portions of the highway.
Solar accounts for half of new generation capacity in 1st quarter of 2016
In mid-June the Institute of Local Self-Reliance reported that during the quarter ending March 31, 2016, more than half of all new generation capacity installed in the United States was solar energy. This included both distributed (rooftop) solar and utility-scale solar. When wind was included, two-thirds of all new capacity was provided by renewable energy.
Analysts estimate $400 billion in health and environment benefits from solar energy by 2050
The country could gain health and environmental benefits worth $400 billion between now and 2050, according to a study published in mid-June by two national energy laboratories. The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the National Renewable Energy Lab estimated this result from the reduction of conventional air pollutants from power plants — sulfur, nitrogen, and particulates — as well as a reduction of carbon emissions. For details, see an article in Renewable Energy World.
Solar and wind energy will garner almost two-thirds of global electricity investment over next 25 years
Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that solar energy will attract $3.4 trillion of global investment in electricity generation over the next 25 years, and wind energy $3.1 trillion. Together they will represent almost two-thirds of all investment in the sector. BNEF says that although the price of fossil fuels will remain relatively low, renewables will continue to get cheaper. See the June 12 press release (the full report is not available to non-customers of BNEF).
Fannie Mae: New low-interest financing for solar as part of mortgage
The Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) announced in May that it would allow homebuyers and mortgage refinancers to include solar energy technology (or energy efficiency) in a mortgage, and gain access to low-interest loans, currently in the mid-three percent range. Low-income homeowners who can’t meet Fannie Mae requirements could tap a similar program offered by the Federal Department of Housing and Development. For details, see the explanation by the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Review of multiple state studies concludes that net metering benefits all utility customers
Net metering policies that reimburse households or businesses for “excess” electricity generated from rooftop solar panels are not imposing a financial burden on customers who don’t have solar panels. In fact, they may very well be delivering a net savings to the entire utility. The Brookings Institution, a long-established and respected non-partisan think tank, came to these conclusions in this May announcement after reviewing more than a dozen studies, mostly at the state level, performed by regulators, universities, national labs, and others.
Rooftop solar energy could provide almost 40% of U.S. electricity
If Americans installed solar panels on every flat, sunny rooftop in the country, the U.S. could satisfy nearly 40 percent of its total electricity demand from solar alone, according to a new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. When might that rooftop solar be cheaper than the grid? Here’s the map.
Utilities see growing opportunity in the “community solar” market
Community solar has become an increasingly popular way for electric utilities to bring solar to customers. In 2010, there were only two shared solar projects in existence. Today, 77 utilities administer more than 110 projects across 26 states, accounting for a total capacity of about 106 megawatts. GTM wrote about the trend in late March.
Whole Foods will put solar panels on 100 facilities
In mid-March the New York Times reported that Whole Foods, headquartered in Austin, Texas, plans to have solar panels installed on 100 of its stores and distribution centers in nine states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Texas.
Solar industry employment rose 20.2% in 2015
On January 12, 2016 the Solar Foundation, an independent nonprofit solar research and education organization, released its sixth annual National Solar Jobs Census. It found that the U.S. solar industry grew nearly 12 times faster than the national employment growth rate of 1.7% in 2015. The industry now employs 208,859 Americans, representing 20.2% growth over the previous year.