WASHINGTON - In the last year, U.S. electric utilities’ involvement with grid-connected solar electricity increased significantly, with major photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar thermal (CST) announcements by utilities, their customers, and third-party solar developers, according to a new report by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).

The report says that it is especially difficult to predict the future in the rapidly changing solar industry. However, increasing utility engagement in solar electricity is an obvious theme. An unprecedented number of utilities have made major announcements of large solar purchases or new and expanded customer programs in 2007 and 2008.

On the customer side of the meter, photovoltaic systems will continue to be the dominant solar electric technology. Differences in utility integration of solar are driven by a variety of factors, including state policies, available incentives, retail electricity prices, solar resource, market prices, and the state of the economy. Ultimately, all customer-related solar markets are state and utility specific.

On a national level, using basic projection techniques, annual U.S. growth is expected to increase from 150 MW in 2007 to over 600 MW in 2012.

On the state level, several states have solar, distributed generation, or customer-siting requirements within their renewable portfolio standards or other state policies. Based in part on renewable portfolio projections from Lawrence Berkeley Labs and existing market activities, the following states are expected to see significant growth in their photovoltaic markets, largely but not exclusively, on the customer-side of the meter, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

The report says these state markets will emerge at different rates over the next five years, but they represent the best prediction for utilities actively engaging solar in a significant manner in the near-term.

Publication date:09/01/2008