Top Utilities Grow Solar Power Despite Recession

By John Addison. Today, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) whose membership includes 110 utilities issued a new report – “2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings” – which identifies the utilities in the U.S. that have the most solar electricity integrated into their portfolio.
The report demonstrates that the utility segment is making a major investment to increase the amount of solar energy in power portfolios, with many utilities doubling the amount of solar power in their portfolio in just one year. The installed solar capacity of the top ten ranked utilities rose 25 percent in a tough economy, from 711 megawatts to 882 megawatts.
The Top 10 Utilities in cumulative megawatts installed represent six states stretching from California to New York:

#1 Southern California Edison (EIX) – CA (441.4MW)
#2 Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG) – CA (229.5)
#3 NV Energy – NV (77.9)
#4 San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE) – CA (49.3)
#5 Public Service of Colorado (Xcel Energy – XEL) – CO (28.5)
#6 LA Department of Water & Power – CA (13.6)
#7 Public Service Electric & Gas Co. – NJ (13.2)
#8 Arizona Public Service Co. – AZ (10.6)
#9 Sacramento Municipal Utility District – CA (10.2)
#10 Long Island Power Authority – NY (7.7)

Although the sunny West Coast dominates this year’s list, other states are coming on strong including Florida, North Carolina, and Florida. Yes, the availability of sunlight is one driver in the expanded use of solar. Other drivers include the retail price of electricity, state government initiatives such as RPS, and cap-and-trade of emission credits.
There are two primary solar technologies, photovoltaic and concentrating solar power. Photovoltaic (PV) technologies utilize a photosensitive material to generate electricity direct from sunlight. PV can also be magnified using mirrors or lenses in low- or high-concentrations known as concentrating photovoltaic technology or CPV. Concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies utilize mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight on a point or line and generate high-temperature heat, which is captured to generate electricity in a later process.
Julia Hamm, Executive Director of SEPA, sees strong growth in both PV and CSP. For example, Southern California Edison is planning a massive 1.3GW of CSP with BrightSource. Arizona Power is planning 125MW of PV. Medium- and utility-scale photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal power projects are adding around 20 billion of dollars worth of investment.
Some European nations that aggressively use wind power, such as Spain and Denmark, have demonstrated that intermittency is quite manageable when renewable energy is less than 20% of the mix. CSP can take the mix much higher by storing energy in liquids like molten salt for delivery when demand peaks.
#5 on the list, Public Service of Colorado (Xcel Energy), is already experimenting with vehicle-to-grid (V2G Report), which will allow the growing population of electric vehicles to provide power to the grid during peak hours. Utilities are experimenting with several forms of large scale grid-storage which will be promising if significant costs are achieved.
Some 30 years ago, solar was dismissed as impractical. Now that PV manufacturing cost is 100 times less than in early days, utilities are taking the lead in the growing demand for solar power.

John Addison writes about clean transportation and renewable energy. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – which includes details of the growing use of renewable energy in powering cars, public transportation, and high-speed rail.

5 replies
  1. nano
    nano says:

    It is suggested that eco-industrial parks and Industrial Symbiosis be used as a means of growing the renewable energy sector. In the case of a Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Manufacturing plant, an eco-industrial park can make manufacturing Solar PV more economical and environmentallyfriendly.In essence,this assists the growth of the renewable energy industry and the environmental benefits that come with replacing fossil-fuels.To find out more, you can review this article:J. M. Pearce, Industrial Symbiosis for Very Large Scale Photovoltaic Manufacturing, Renewable Energy 33, pp. 1101-1108, 2008 , the article by name if the link does not work.

  2. 40_octaves
    40_octaves says:

    Anyone concerned with how the oil companies are essentially all in the solar game? My concern is that any substantial gains in efficiency and lower costs are being neatly tucked away or brought into line with what will not change the game too quickly. I very much doubt it is in the oil companies long term interest to have someone plugging in their electric vehicle into an outlet that is 100% solar powered. I have seen a few companies that 'claimed' (yes, I know, difficult to say if they were blowing smoke in some cases) HUGE advances in solar tech or cost efficiency and they just don't seem to ever come on line. In one case the company was bought out by a shell subsidiary and is now currently in development and the advances are not nearly as great as first widely reported. The gains keep occurring, it would be nice if it could happen naturally though.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Oh! I agree. Solar is the way to go.Having panels on your roof during the summer blaze not only creates clean energy, it also gives addition shade protection to the house. In the winter months the sun sits more south, so it does not stop the winter warming rays from hitting the front, back, and sides of the home, depending on which way your home faces the winter sun.I went with the Popular Mechanics Award Winning Akeena Solar Inc. Andalay AC panels. The inverter system is built right into the panels, so there is no need for extra cost and a bulky aparatus mounted onto the side of my house. Because the inverters and wiring system is housed in the panels the Andalay AC system uses 80% less parts, lending for less breakdown of the equipment, much less labor to install, and a much better looking product on the house. The Andalay is slimmer, more attractive and a higher performer. Mounting for the Andaly requires far fewer roof penetrations than other systems. The system is also more efficient than most because they use silicon in their cells (most efficient)and having the inverters at the source reduces energy loss. It generates 5% more energy per watt basis and up to 25% more energy in situations where there is significant shading from trees or clouds. The inverters are guaranteed for 15 years versus the usual 10 years for all other systems. And the Andalay AC system has alternating current at its panles output. Other systems are direct current(DC), which is a far more dangerous voltage than AC.The racking, heart and nervous system, is corrosion proof aluminum panels with corrosion proof stainless steel splices to connect the panels. There are no wires running from panel to panel, lending for exposure deteriation. DC systems use plastic tiewraps that crack and break in the sun.Because everything is built in and there are 80% fewer parts than other systems, installation is half the price of other systems. When a panel has a problem the monitor lets you know about it, and the system does not lose power like DC systems do when a panel has a problem. DC has mismatching of plus or minus 5% tolerance and the output is reduced by the output of its weakest member. Not with the AC Andalay – it's a full rated output from every panel.If there is a problem with a panel that panel is bypassed and the rest of the panles function at full output. Not the case with DC systems.It's a plug and play system. Racking intergration into each panel elimminates the risk of clips and bolts loosening over time due to wind and temperature fluctuations. Built in wiring reduces risk of wires shorting out or grouning lugs corroding.Another good part of the Andalay is that you can buy as many panels as you want and add to the system as you go. You can't do this with other systems. You can buy the Andalay at Lowes. They have an energy center set up there, and check it out. I did, and I type on clean energy 😉

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