In 2011, solar was the fastest growing source of new electricity generated by utilities. That’s surprising, because unlike you, utilities have a choice.
It is not surprising that the solar panel is the energy appliance of choice among consumers. Your home is unsuitable for most power plants other than solar. A nuke, coal or gas plant in the back yard? No thanks! Wind or micro hydro? Only for a few.
But last year, almost half of a surge in solar growth was driven by utility-solar, either by building their own solar generation capacity, or by contracting for the power, either in a power purchase agreement (PPA) with a solar developer or with a solar renewable energy credit (SREC) supplier.
Altogether, solar increased at an astonishing 120 percent over 2010 levels, with utilities interconnecting over 62,500 PV systems onto the grid, according to the Solar Electric Power Association’s SEPA Top 10, a ranking of the utilities on solar growth.
Overall, of the more than 240 utilities and electric co-operatives surveyed, nearly 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of new solar came online in 2011, with the bulk of that, 1 GW, being interconnected by just the top 10 utilities.
For the fourth year running, the national leader with the most solar added to its grid in 2011 was California’s Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which connected 288 megawatts (MW). California is one of just nine states where consumers can go solar without buying panels.
SRECs catapulted solar growth in New Jersey, where Public Service Electric & Gas came in second with 181 MW.