The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) released the 2012 Top 10 Utility Solar Rankings Report, which ranks utilities nationally and by utility type for more than 260 of the most solar-active utilities, representing 96 percent of the U.S. solar electric power market. The sixth edition of the report, the 2012 rankings analyzes the amount of new solar power interconnected by U.S. electric utilities and uncovered the following key findings:
· Annual solar capacity surpassed 2,000 MW-ac for the first time in 2012.
· The market share for large-scale solar projects grew 160 percent to 1,130 MW from 2011.
· Net energy metering (NEM), or customer-sited solar, remains a large part of the solar market, accounting for 99 percent of newly installed projects.
Detailed analysis of the solar market
According to the report, utilities integrated almost 2.4 GW-ac or 2,384 MW of solar electric capacity in 2012, equivalent to installing eight natural gas combined cycle power plants. Currently, there are more than 300,000 solar projects and approximately 6,100 MW installed across the United States.
Utilities purchased more than 1,000 MW of large-scale solar, mostly through power-purchase agreements. The wholesale utility market included more than 70 photovoltaic (PV) projects, including Pacific Gas and Electric’s purchase of the largest solar PV project in the world, the 250 MW Agua Caliente project. Although no concentrating solar power (CSP) projects were completed in 2012, several projects exceeding 750 MW (cumulative) are expected in 2013. SEPA predicts that the completion of utility-procured, large-scale solar projects in 2013 will likely surpass the 2,400 MW of solar that was deployed by all market segments in 2012.
Customer-sited NEM projects grew 46 percent compared to 2011, with utilities interconnecting nearly 90,000 projects totaling 1,151 MW-ac last year. Currently there are more than 3,500 MW of NEM projects in the country, 80 percent of which are concentrated in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, and New Jersey. Non-NEM projects made up more than 52 percent of the total capacity installed in 2012, but only constituted 0.5 percent of the number of projects.