Big solar’s big year just keeps getting bigger.
The monthly energy infrastructure report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (PDF), which tracks utility-scale projects, shows that through October, 190 solar units totaling 2,528 megawatts in installed capacity had been added in 2013. That’s more than double the 1,257 megawatts for the same period in 2012, and constitutes 21 percent of all new electrical generating capacity this year. Through the first three quarters of last year, solar had accounted for just 7 percent of new capacity additions in the year.
October, in particular, was a huge month for utility-scale solar, with the five projects with capacities in double figures coming on-line: the 280-megawatt Solana Generating Station in Arizona; 139-megawatt Campo Verde Solar project in Imperial County, Calif., a 36-megawatt final phase of the 249-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, Calif.; the 30-megawatt Spectrum Solar project in Clark County, Nev.; and the 10-megawatt Indianapolis International Airport Solar Farm Phase 1.
As the Solar Energy Industries Association gleefully pointed out on Monday, “Twelve new solar units accounted for 504 megawatts or 72.1 percent of all new capacity last month” in the United States.
“This is truly astonishing, not to mention historic, and should serve as a reminder to everyone in Washington and in state capitals that smart public policies -- such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) -- are paying huge dividends for America,” the group said in a statement.
That said, for the year, natural gas remains the king in new capacity brought on-line, accounting for 6,625 megawatts of the overall total 12,327 megawatts added. Wind, still bouncing back from last year’s production tax credit scare, has seen 1,027 megawatts of new capacity come on-line. The industry appears headed for its weakest year since 2004, but expects to benefit next year from a pipeline now filling up with projects.