By all measures, the solar industry continues to grow. Recent data reveals tremendous growth in the industry, both in the U.S. and globally. Also, activity in various states shows that the deployment of solar continues to increase, even in places that are not traditionally hotbeds for solar installations.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the solar industry grew by about $175 billion globally on renewable energy projects during the first three quarters of 2014 – an increase of 16% from the same period in 2013. Investment in China in the first three quarters of 2014 grew to $12.2 billion from $7.5 billion during the first nine months of 2013.
Spending in the third quarter of 2014 gained 12% to $55 billion from $48.9 billion in 2013. A large chunk of last quarter’s investment was in China, where approximately $20 billion was invested in new projects.
Also, Lazard reports that utility-scale solar and wind facilities are now cost competitive with natural gas, nuclear and coal plants in some parts of the U.S. without subsidies. This helps explain why market share in the U.S. for solar power has grown by a factor of 5 over the past 10 years, from 0.1% to 0.5% in 2014 (source: Platts). Similarly, wind power has grown by 11 times during the same period from 0.4% of the power market to 4.4%. These gains have been driven largely by two black swan events in the power generation sector – an unexpected and significant drop in costs for both solar panels and wind turbines.
Solar in the South
We’re all seeing increased solar activity in several states, particularly in the south. In Florida, Tampa Electric has signed on for its first utility-scale solar PV installation, a 2 MW canopy of solar panels, which will be located in the Tampa International Airport. The project will be owned by Tampa Electric once completed.
In Texas, the Austin City Council has permitted Austin Energy to negotiate a power purchase agreement (PPA) with PowerFin Texas Solar Projects or another eligible bidder to receive up to 3.2 MW of solar over 25 years.
Also, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced a 10-year energy plan that calls for greatly expanding the share of solar in the state, in addition to wind and nuclear energy. And in Missouri, Ameren said that it plans to add 500 MW of renewable resources, including 45 MW of solar power, as it retires one-third of its 5,400 MW fleet of coal-fired power plants.