US: Solar power plants to attract over $20 billion of investment by 2016

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In the past seven days, confidence in the U.S. utility scale solar market has been demonstrated by major investments in projects by celebrity investor Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Renewables and large institutional investors such as MetLife Insurance and Citi. The market has been given another vote of confidence, in the form of a report showing that solar is taking a major slice of new energy capacity in the U.S. market, with that share set to grow.

Frost & Sullivan released its "Analysis of the U.S. Utility Scale Solar Power Market" report today, which found that utility scale solar attracted $1.91 billion of investment in 2011. It predicts that to grow to $20.44 billion by 2016.

Utility scale solar continues to be dominated by photovoltaics, in the data analyzed in the report, however Frost & Sullivan notes that CSP development is taking place.

Behind this strong outlook and solid investment performance to date are renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in certain states, including California, Frost & Sullivan found. However a press release, announcing the report’s release, notes that the higher adoption rates for photovoltaics promoted by the RPS requirements have not led to a big increase in investment figures. "Investment figures have not gone up, as the average selling price of solar PV modules continues to decline."

Frost & Sullivan analyst Georgina Benedetti also notes that restrictions to project financing could result in the near term, due to uncertainty that cash grants for solar development may not be extended past March 1, 2013. "To be willing to fund these projects, banks and investors must be confident that a power plant will operate long enough to return their investment," explained Benedetti, in the release. "Therefore, well-established project developers using proven technologies will have an advantage in obtaining financing."

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