U.S. mega-solar projects on the move
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- Mar 19, 2020 12:10 pm GMT
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There are 10.4 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar capacity currently under construction across the United States, according to project data compiled by ABB’s Velocity Suite research team. Along with those projects underway, there are 11.9 GW of solar developments currently holding permits that are expected online over the next three years, with most, 7.4 GW, possible this year. If all goes to plan, 2020 could mark the largest single-year build-out in solar power generation ever in the U.S.
U.S. utility-scale solar capacity additions, MW
In just the past two weeks, two massive solar projects were announced. On March 2, 2020, American developer CIM Group announced they would be advancing the development of their Westlands Solar Park (WSP), that when complete, will be one of the largest permitted solar projects in the World. The roughly 20,000-acre WSP is in the San Joaquin Valley in western Fresno and Kings Counties in Southern California. The project is designed to open in phases to meet public and private needs as they unfold over the next several years. The first phase of WSP includes Aquamarine, a 250 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) project, that has obtained all permits following a full environmental impact review. The project is expected online in late 2021.
On the other side of the country, in Florida, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) issued a statement on March 3, 2020, that the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously (5-0) approved the SolarTogether program proposed by Florida Power & Light (FPL) and SACE. SolarTogether involves the construction of 1.5 GW of solar capacity and $1.8 billion of investment. Once completed, SolarTogether will be the largest community solar program in the U.S. The FPL project includes twenty 74.5 MW individual projects. FPL customers will be able to begin signing up for the program on March 17, 2020.
Five out of the top 10 largest utility-scale solar development projects currently under construction across the country are in Texas. The top 10 include:
- Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, Gemini Solar & Battery Storage project (690 MW), Clark County, NV
- Pegasus Group Holding, Hive Solar Project (340 MW), Mohave County, AZ
- Invenergy LLC, Badger Hollow Solar Farm (300 MW), Iowa County, WI
- Longroad Energy Holdings, Prospero Solar (300 MW), Andrews County, TX
- Onpeak Power, Greasewood Solar Project (255 MW), Pecos County, TX
- 7X Energy, Taygete Solar (254 MW), Pecos County, TX
- Invenergy LLC, Delilah Solar Energy (250 MW), Red River County, TX
- Invenergy LLC, Samson Solar Energy (250 MW), Lamar County, TX
- Ranger Power, Assembly Solar Project (239 MW), Shiawassee County, MI
- ENGIE SA, Long Draw Solar (225 MW), Borden County, TX
Solar has grown rapidly as both a utility and distributed-energy resource in recent years. During the month of July 2019, electricity production from utility-scale solar farms topped 8 million MWh for the first time. Power from small-scale photovoltaics generated an additional 4 million MWh that month – combined for roughly 12 million MWh.
U.S. monthly solar electricity production 2017-19, MWh
Through the full year 2019, for the first time ever, the combination of utility-scale and small-scale solar topped 100 million MWh, reaching 107.7 million MWh. Small-scale solar PV (distributed energy) accounted for about one-third (35 million MWh) of the year’s power production from solar resources – up 18.6% (5.5) from 2018.
U.S. utility-scale solar electricity production, MWh
With more solar power on the grid comes greater swings between seasonal output. Considering utility-scale solar power production in 2019, July production was about 57% higher than in December. Solving the intermittency problem with energy storage, both short-term for daily curve-flattening, and long-term for seasonal variations is paramount for solar to reach its full grid potential. Today nearly every solar development project is coupled with energy storage. There are several innovative new technologies, including the development of large-scale green-hydrogen technology, that shows great promise for new ways to balance seasonal variations in solar power production.
The combination of customer preference, state and corporate mandates, declining costs, and the development of new innovative solar and storage technologies, will continue to drive growth in solar as the country continues the path toward a cleaner power future.