US: Utilities integrate more than 2 GW for the first time in 2012

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The Utility Solar Rankings report looked at more than 260 of the most active utilities in the solar sector. These utilities represent more than 96% of the U.S. electric power market. From the findings three key trends were identified by SEPA.

Key findings

The utilities in the U.S. integrated close to 2.4 GW of solar capacity in 2012. This has brought the solar project numbers in the country to more than 200,000 with almost 1.6 GW installed across the country.

Large-scale solar projects with more than 5 MW capacity accounted for 46% of annual solar capacity. This amounted to about 1.1 GW. More than 70 photovoltaic projects represent this wholesale market segment and include projects such as the 250 MW Agua Caliente project in Arizona owned by Pacific Gas and Electric. Utilities owned 12% according to the report and purchased the remainder via power purchase agreements (PPAs). Concentrating solar power or CSP projects were not completed in 2012 but six projects with a total capacity of 750 MW are expected this year.

Net metered projects comprised more than 99% of the number of installed systems in 2012. Utilities interconnected close to 90,000 net metered projects worth 1,151 MW in 2012. This is a 46% growth from 2011. Five states dominate this 3.5 GW segment with 80% share: California, New Jersey, Arizon, Hawaii and Massachusetts.

Ranking

In the annual solar megawatts ranking by SEPA, Pacific Gas & Electric topped the list with more than 800 MW installed in 2012, 80% more than in 2011. The company’s portfolio has almost 630 MW of large-scale prohects of which 50 MW are utility-owned. More than 17,500 net metered systems were also interconnected by Pacific Gas & Electric.

Southern California Edison (SCE) came in second with more than 190 MW of new solar generation, driven primarily as the report says by 15,000 residential and non-residential projects totaling 150 MW.

SEPA noted that in 2012 it took a minimum of 65 MW to make it to the MW ranking list compared to 45 MW in 2011 and 20 MW in 2010.

In the Watts-per-customer category, the City of St. Marys municipal utility took the first spot nationally with almost 563 Watts/customer. It also took more Watts this year for companies to make it into the Watts per customer ranking list. SEPA states that it took 162 Watts/customer to make it to the top ten list in 2012 compared to 83 Watts/customer in 2011. This year’s highest ranked investor-owned utility was Hawaiian Electric Company with nearly 220 Watts/customer.