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July 2, 2009: Electric Utilities Increase Adoption of Solar Power

July 2, 2009
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WASHINGTON - The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has released its 2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings report, which shows that utilities are making a major investment to increase the amount of solar energy in their power portfolios, with a number of utilities doubling the amount of solar power in their portfolio in just one year. The overall installed solar capacity of the top 10 ranked utilities rose from 711 megawatts to 882 megawatts, reflecting 25 percent growth. Ninety-two utilities participated in this year’s survey, an increase of more than 80 percent over last year, showing that the utility industry’s interest in solar power is substantially stronger.

“This year’s report demonstrates that solar electricity is finally on the radar screen of utilities across the country,” said Julia Hamm, executive director of the Solar Electric Power Association. “Solar plants large and small are ready for significant build-out, and the utility industry is moving quickly toward mass adoption to meet a variety of business needs.” Renewable portfolio standards, impending carbon policy, and fluctuating costs of power generation and fuel resources top the list of drivers towards improved utility perception of solar electric options, said SEPA.

The report documents a wave of utility-driven installations, pointing to the growing importance of utilities in the solar power market, and the growing importance of solar power to the business of utilities, said SEPA. Historically, the solar power market has been dominated by customer-driven installations.

“Residential and commercial photovoltaic projects will continue to be important stimulants for job creation and small business growth, but they will be complemented by large-scale photovoltaic and concentrating solar power projects,” said Mike Taylor, director of research and education at SEPA. “The variety of ways solar power is being implemented signals an increased maturity in the market.”

This year’s report shows that 2008 solar power growth came almost entirely from thousands of distributed generation projects, which grow more steadily and consistently than centralized plants. However, SEPA anticipates that in future years centralized solar electric plants will play an equal or larger role.

“Traditional fossil-fuel power plants come in two sizes, large and larger,” said Taylor. “The solar market is more vigorous, complex, and democratic because of the combination of distributed generation and large-scale projects.” Large-scale centralized solar plants are currently at an earlier stage of development with most large-scale projects in the contract or construction phase. SEPA said the solar industry is developing a robust foundation for the future by using a diversified approach of distributed and centralized projects owned by a variety of market players.

For more information, visit www.solarelectricpower.org.

Publication date: 06/29/2009

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