Category: Utility Scale Generation
The objective of our annual investigation of industry developments in the utility-scale solar sector is to provide consistent high-quality data and analysis to keep the audience abreast of market trends at times of enormous industry growth. Our research complements other projects well, such as SEPA’s and SEIA’s annual Solar Market Snapshot and is widely recognized in the industry.
We do original primary data collection from the Energy Information Administration, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, incentive programs and regulatory proceedings on the state and federal level, interviews with developers, EPCs, and project owners, ISO electricity market data and 35 interconnection queues around the county. As a result, we have the most comprehensive database on utility-scale solar projects larger than 5MWac in the United States with 615 projects (22.5GWac) that achieved a commercial operations date at the end of 2017, including technical design specifications, capital costs, O&M costs, project performance, and PPAs. The size of the database allows for a representative sample, robust summary statistics and ensures confidentiality of individual project data to the extent that it is non-public. By the time of the presentation we will have updated our analysis with new 2018 and 2019 insights.
Tracking c-Si installations have extended their lead in 2017 annual installations as most ubiquitous technology choice and about 80% of all new installations now feature single-axis tracking capabilities. The median utilized solar resource has continued to fall to 4.65 kWh/m2/day, following the market expansion to and increasing solar economic viability in less sunny regions - tracking installations continue to be built primarily in higher-insolation regions, with fixed-tilt installations retracting increasingly to regions with less than 4.5kWh/m2/day. Capital costs have declined to $1.6/Wdc or 2.0/Wac for the median 2017 projects, and for the first time the median tracking project did not command a premium over the median fixed-tilt project. Overall O&M costs decreased slightly in 2017 to $16/kW-yr or 8$/MWh. Average Net-Capacity Factors (AC) for new installations were about 26%. Recently negotiated PPA data include several projects below $40/MWh, with some PV+S PPAs going as low as $20/MWh, although growing solar penetrations continue to erode the value proposition in some markets such as CAISO (realized wholesale market energy revenue for solar declined to just 17$/MWh in H1 2018). Many announcements describe a variety of PV plus storage parings leveraging different business model, with some projects already operating.
Joachim Seel– Senior Scientific Engineering Associate, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory