The National Renewable Energy Laboratory released this chart today from an upcoming report on the number of renewable energy projects underway in the U.S. as of the fourth quarter of 2010. The results are striking: With over 4000 Megawatts (4 Gigawatts) of projects over 1 MW and around 1.3 GW under 1 MW in some phase of development, Solar PV is hitting its stride.
Q4 results from NREL’s Project Finance Tracking Initiative
We should make a couple very important notes.
This data that has been collected from a voluntary pool of solar companies, and the figures do not necessarily reflect projects that will be completed. For example, in the third quarter of 2010 there were 6 GW of solar PV projects underway, but only 500 MW actually closed financing. This is because many developers (so-called sponsors in project finance) are on the small side and often approach investors without a solid plan of execution. Compare that to wind – a sector with much larger and more mature developers – which had 5 GW planned with 2.5 GW closing financing, according to NREL.
Although these figures are somewhat limited, they do highlight the underlying story: Given the incredible cost and price reductions seen in solar over the last few years (50% price declines in modules since 2008, 20% decline in installed price in 2010 alone), solar PV is on a path to large-scale adoption, similar to where wind has gone over the last decade.
Analysts predict that between 1.5 GW and 2 GW of solar PV will come online this year in the U.S., with potentially 10 GW being installed in the country each year by 2015. That’s equal to the wind industry’s biggest year in 2009. Solar hasn’t reached the scale or maturity of wind yet, but it’s on the right path.
– Stephen Lacey