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 MW 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. To generate 2,528 MW takes roughly 5,000 acres of land and roughly 35 million solar panels.
October, in particular, was a huge month for utility-scale solar, with the five projects with capacities in double figures coming online – the 280-MW Solana Generating Station in Arizona; 139-MW Campo Verde Solar project in Imperial County, Calif., a 36-MW final phase of the 249-MW California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, Calif.; the 30 MW Spectrum Solar project in Clark County, Nev.; and the 10-MW Indianapolis International Airport Solar Farm Phase 1.
As the Solar Energy Industries Association gleefully pointed out on Monday, “12 new solar units accounted for 504 MW 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 online, accounting for 6,625 MW of the overall total 12,327 MW added. Wind, still bouncing back from last year’s production tax credit scare, has seen 1,027 MW of new capacity come online. The industry appears headed for its weakest year since 2004, but expects to benefit next year from a pipeline now filling up with projects.