California currently has just 524 solar projects over 1 megawatt (MW) — but an incredible 17,707 such solar projects will be on the grid by 2017 [PDF]. This is a huge change! And California is not the only state with such massive change coming.
The U.S. is about to go through an incredible metamorphosis when it comes to energy generation. When you step back from all the individual items of news about large-scale renewable projects and total them up, you see that we have never been through anything like this before. We are about to see a profound change in how we power our homes and businesses with power from utilities, as well as many small distributed solar sources.
The solar industry’s list of the 17,707 solar projects over 1 MW about to be added in the next few years consists of 3,373 now under construction, and another 14,334 in the pipeline — at some stage in the approval process.
Solar is ideally suited to being a distributed energy source — on many, many factory rooftops, for example. A Costco or other big box store, or manufacturing plant, could host a 1 MW project. So some of these projects could be as small as the size of a city block or so.
Another clue to what’s in the pipeline is to look at just how many contracts the three big California utilities have signed with renewable developers for the huge solar and wind projects from 100 MW to 1,000 MW.
At between 100 MW and 1,000 MW, these are more the size of traditional power plants. The first few of these contracted projects began to come online in dribs and drabs by 2009 — but the entire 110 projects have start dates up till 2017.