Good news/bad news in Top 10 Solar Utility Rankings

At its recent Utility Solar Conference, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) announced the below lists of the top ten U.S. utilities with high solar integration in 2009 and top ten cumulative solar utilities. 


There’s good news and bad news with these list.

The good news is that there is positive momentum in 2009 new MWs added.  Not surprisingly, California has five of the top ten solar stars this year – utilities which are really making strides to get solar into the generation mix. And those same five are on the list of the top ten cumulative solar integrators in the U.S. On another positive note, the Salt River Project, which was 25th on the list last year, sky-rocketed to #8 this year and Public Service Electric & Gas Co. (PSE&G) out of New Jersey moved up two slots to capture the #3 spot.  Clearly, these utilities have a vision for solar and have made it a priority to drive successful integration into the grid. 

The bad news is that even the largest solar utilities are still relatively small in scale, with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) leading the way with 82 MW in new additions.  Remember, both Spain and Germany have multiple solar farms that are 40 MW each or larger.  The largest solar utility in the country, Southern California Edison, has a cumulative 515 MW installed – 364 MW from long standing contracts with Solar Electricity Generating Systems (CEGS) CSP plants, which provide more than two-thirds of the utility’s solar portfolio. Big projects are appealing but often the delays and risk associated with environmental clearances and transmission to load centers can delay and disrupt solar integration.  In contrast, 5-20 MW projects at substation level, near load offers a more straightforward and executable route to rapid solar deployment. 

Finally, even with these five California utilities on the list, California isn’t going to meet it goal of 20% renewable energy generation by 2010.  With only 13% of investor owned utility (IOU) retail sales being served by renewable resources in 2008, California will be lucky to crest 15% in 2009.  And with energy consumption rising, it’s going to be almost impossible to meet the 2010 goal.

What can we do about it?

• Tell your political representatives that you care about Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Overwhelmingly, it is local support coupled with strong pro-renewable regulation that drives this momentum.

• Tell your utility that you want renewables, particularly solar, to be a bigger part of its power generation mix.

• And invest in solar for your own home or office.

Renewable energy makes a difference. And if you don’t think so, ask the folks on the Gulf Coast what our reliance on oil is costing us.

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