— Solar energy news in Texas and nationally in recent months —
The queen of Texas solar, Phoebe, just west of Odessa in Winkler county, was commissioned on November 19 by Innergex Renewable Energy, reports pv magazine. Texas has become one of the most dynamic and aggressive new solar markets in the country, as this video of the massive project illustrates. The 315 MW Phoebe project represents eight percent of all solar generation capacity in the state.
In this November announcement, Recharge News reports burger giant McDonald’s entered into a PPA to purchase renewable energy from a Texas wind farm and solar farm. The 380MW deal shows the traction renewable PPAs are gaining in the United States and globally, in the latest major entry to the U.S. corporate renewable energy segment.
In this October announcement, Wells Fargo enters a 10-year structured renewable energy agreement with Reliant, an NRG Energy company. The new agreement will provide approximately 62,000 megawatt-hours of solar energy annually to approximately 400 Wells Fargo properties from a new utility-scale solar facility in Texas. The facility will provide 100 percent of the bank’s total annual requirements in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas region and 3 percent of the company’s national load.
The city of Georgetown, an hour north of Austin, filed a lawsuit against Buckthorn Westex LLC, a subsidiary of Clearway, alleging that the company breached at least three sections of the power contract related to the Buckthorn solar plant in West Texas. This October pv magazine article notes that the city faced a $8.3 million loss from 2016 to 2018, forcing a rise in electricity prices for its customers.
Of the five largest solar projects currently planned or operating in the United States, two are located in Texas, as per this October GTM article. According to the most recent data from ERCOT, the state’s grid operator, solar is dominating the Texas interconnection queue, accounting for more than 64 gigawatts of the 111 gigawatts of capacity under study.
No other power-generation technology matched solar’s pace of cost reduction this past decade according to this December Wood Mackenzie report. Multi-silicon solar module prices dropped from over $2 per watt to just over $0.20 per watt in Q3 2019. That 90 percent price reduction is one of the most critical factors driving the global expansion of solar. The game will change again in the 2020s.
This December pv magazine article shows support for distributed generation and a desire for a residential installation of one’s own is up 6 percent nationally since 2016, with some regions seeing upwards of 20 percent support growth. Even more impressively, when you factor in survey respondents who had already installed solar panels on their home, that number becomes the majority, clocking in at 52 percent.
The U.S. residential solar market hit record highs in the third quarter of 2019 with 712 megawatts of solar installed, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight report from SEIA/WoodMac Power & Renewables. This December pv magazine article notes that the U.S. solar market added 2.6 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics in the third quarter, growing total U.S. solar capacity to 71.3 gigawatts.
More and more companies are joining RE100 and leading the global switch to renewable energy, according to this December pv magazine article. RE100, the coalition of the world’s largest companies committed to becoming 100 percent powered by renewables experienced a banner year in 2019, growing by over a third, with 40% of that growth coming from Asia and the South Pacific.
Rueters reports on a December study from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) on the impact of the Trump administration tariffs on imported panels. Global panel prices have continued to fall due to an oversupply in top producer China, yet the report found that U.S. solar prices are among the highest in the world.
A November Axios article points to the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs report, Tracking the Sun, that underscores how distributed system sizes have been growing, partly reflecting increasing module efficiencies, as many systems are space-constrained based on available roof area. In the residential sector, the median system has nearly tripled this century to 6.4 kilowatts as of last year.
This November Utility Dive article says renewables continue to get cheaper, just not as fast as before, according to an annual Lazard analysis. Continued declines in the cost of renewable technologies are pressuring conventional resources, and onshore wind costs have declined a more modest 7 percent annually.
Analyst Philip Shen, of Roth Capital Partners, noted the above projection in his most recent October Solar Snapshot newsletter, pv magazine reports. Shen says that interviews with significant suppliers suggests growth greater than 25 percent, while interviews with executives at Solar Power International suggested their estimations are conservative and that 30-50 percent growth is not out of question.
In October, the PV maker officially completed its massive manufacturing facility in Lake Township, Ohio, which brings it to 1.9 GW of manufacturing capacity in the state, pv magazine reports. The factory will help to meet the overwhelming demand for the company’s thin-film, cadmium telluride, Series 6 modules. Earlier this year Hanwha Q Cells opened a 1.7 GW PV module factory in Georgia.
General Electric is not one of the companies that is associated with a serious embrace of the energy transition, and for good reason, pv magazine notes in this October article. From spring 2017 through the fall of 2018, GE’s stock collapsed, leading to a 74 percent decline in market capitalization, and a loss of $193 billion to investors. That is slowly changing with a new emphasis on distributed solar.
The most dramatic company in energy announced in October record breaking battery storage deployment, pv magazine reports. Until recent quarters, Tesla’s battery cell manufacturing capacity was constrained and devoted almost entirely to its electric vehicle division. That constraint has eased, allowing the company to edge out its previous record mark of 415 MWh of storage, set in Q2 2019.