The 2014 report from the US Department of Energy provides an empirical analysis of project cost, performance, and pricing trends in the United States. It should be pointed out other utility scale solar projects are also being launched elsewhere in the world.
This introductory text, authored by Mark Bolinger and Joachim Seel from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory puts the significant growth of utility scale solar into perspective.
“Other than the nine Solar Energy Generation Systems (“SEGS”) parabolic trough projects built in the 1980s, virtually no large-scale or “utility-scale” solar projects – defined here to include any groundmounted photovoltaic (“PV”), concentrating photovoltaic (“CPV”), or concentrating solar thermal power (“CSP”) project larger than 5 MWAC – existed in the United States prior to 2007. By 2012 – just five years later – utility-scale had become the largest sector of the overall PV market in the United States, a distinction that was repeated in both 2013 and 2014 and that is expected to continue for at least the next few years. Over this same short period, CSP also experienced a bit of a renaissance in the United States, with a number of large new parabolic trough and power tower systems – some including thermal storage – achieving commercial operation.”
The authors state that this critical mass of new utility-scale projects now online “is ripe for analysis.” As such, this report analyzes everything from installed project costs and prices to operating costs and capacity factors. Importantly, it also reviews power purchase agreement (“PPA”) prices from a large sample of US utility-scale solar projects.
Here is a snapshot of what is included in this report:
- Installation Trends
- Installed Prices
- Operation and Maintenance (“O&M”) Costs
- Capacity Factors
- PPA Prices
This report concludes the amount of utility-scale solar capacity will maintain its present momentum through 2016. At the end of 2014, there was at least 44.6 GW of utility-scale solar power capacity making its way through interconnection queues across the nation (though concentrated in California and the Southwest).
The authors conclude: “…it will still mean an unprecedented amount of new construction in 2015 and 2016 – as well as a substantial amount of new data to collect and analyze in future editions of this report.”