Smart Energy Technologies & Energy Storage
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 690 projects (24.6GWac) that achieved a commercial operations date at the end of 2018, 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.
Tracking installations have maintained their lead in 2018 annual installations as most ubiquitous technology choice and about 70% of all new installations now feature single-axis tracking capabilities. The median utilized solar resource has stabilized at 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 or particularly challenging environments (wind loads, brown-fields). Capital costs have declined to $1.2/Wdc or 1.6/Wac for the median 2018 projects, and the median tracking project now is built for less than the median fixed-tilt project. Average Net-Capacity Factors (AC) for new installations were about 25%. Recently negotiated PPA data include several projects below $30/MWh, with some PV+S PPAs going as low as $20/MWh. In some markets solar’s value proposition continues to erode such as CAISO, where solar penetration reached 16.5% and the realized wholesale market energy revenue for solar declined to nearly 75% of average wholesale energy market prices or $29/MWh, or ISO New England (3.5% penetration, 87% of average value, $38/MWh). In the other 5 organized wholesale markets in the US solar penetration was at or below 1% and solar generation still carried a premium of 5-20% over the average electricity price at $30-40/MWh. PV plus storage parings can mitigate a project’s exposure to this value decline and recent announcements leverage a variety of business model, with some projects already operating.
The report, presentation and data file can be downloaded at https://utilityscalesolar.lbl.gov .