After lagging behind the utility scale segment of the solar power renewable energy sector is really starting to take off in the US; it is is now on par with the commercial and residential segments in terms of market size and growing at a higher rate. This post summarizes AltaTerra Research’s newest report, “Utility Solar: U.S. Market Takes Off”.

by Eric Paul, Analyst, AltaTerra Research. Follow Paul on Twitter @BizofGreen. Connect with Paul on Linkedin.

The utility solar market segment in the U.S. is now on par with the commercial and residential segments by volume and growing faster—by a factor of ten. In 2010, the segment grew nearly 300 percent to a total of 251 megawatts (MW). Utility solar is emerging as a distinct market, different from other segments in technology, geographic concentration, types of parties involved, regulatory drivers, and—crucially—challenges for project developers.

In AltaTerra Research’s newest report, “Utility Solar: U.S. Market Takes Off,” my colleagues and I present an overview of the development of utility solar in the United States with installation data, profiles of all the largest projects, and project case studies. Among our results are the following:

* By the close of 2010, utility customer installations will have seen annual growth of 286 percent, from 65 MW in 2009 to 251 MW in 2010.

* The utility sector is now about the same size as the commercial sector but growing much faster than either the commercial or the residential sector.

* Of all utility installations, 68 percent are projects of 10 MW or greater.

* Project locations are not concentrated in the states, such as California, that have accounted for most of this country’s PV installed base in the past. The state with the most projects larger than 10 MW is Florida.

* The installers with multiple projects greater than 10 MW are (in alphabetical order) First Solar, juwi solar, and SunPower.

As shown in the figure below, utility-customer PV emerged as a significant segment around 2008, and saw considerable growth over 2009 before achieving its current stature in size and level of growth.

U.S. PV Installations by Utility, Commercial, and Residential Sectors: 2004–2010 (MW-DC)

AltaTerra Research analysis sources: Larry Sherwood, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, AltaTerra Research

The lead author of the report, Jon Guice, gave a briefing on the report as part of an online conference last December 1 entitled “Utility Solar: Market Trends and Case Studies.; in which he expanded on the findings from the report, discussed how the utility market has emerged in 2009 and 2010, and talked about emerging trends in the utility market for 2011 and beyond.

Joining the briefing was Kathryn Salvador, manager in the project development group at Florida Power & Light (FPL). FPL is a leader in the utility industry, having developed the largest project in the U.S., more projects than other utilities, all without a government mandate, since Florida has not had a state Renewable Portfolio Standard. Kathy Salvador talked about how and why FPL has begun adopting utility solar, discussing the real-world lessons the utility has learned developing the projects.

For further information about the report and a link to download a free preview, click here. Rather than equipment sales or project announcements, the report covers commissioned installations having utilities and other purchasers of wholesale power as customers. The focus is on photovoltaic (PV) plants larger than 10 MW.

© 2011, Eric Paul. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Eric Paul (1 Articles)

Eric Paul is an analyst with AltaTerra Research's Renewable Energy Practice, an international research consultancy dedicated to corporate environmental sustainability and commercial markets for clean technology solutions. He has worked on consulting engagements for renewable energy firms on new business innovation (market identification, sizing and targeting), market development (competitive assessment, customer value proposition tuning and market segmentation) and industry and customer education (expand understanding and commercial uptake of emerging green business and clean technology solutions) and is responsible for managing and producing renewable energy online executive conferences designed to provide independent professional education on critical market developments. Follow Paul on Twitter @BizofGreen. Connect with Paul on Linkedin.