An offer utilities can’t refuse: The low cost of utility-scale solar

Source: By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive • Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New numbers show the “beautiful friendship” between utilities and solar is growing and bringing the U.S. power system’s transition to higher renewables penetrations along.

“Utilities of all kinds and in many places are accelerating from zero to 100 on solar in response to record-low prices,” Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) research manager and paper lead author Daisy Chung told Utility Dive.

Contrary to the word from Washington, D.C., utility-scale renewables are not “badly behaved coal plants” that threaten grid reliability and national security, Seb Henbest, lead author of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance New Energy Outlook, wrote July 25. “By 2050, we’re painting a picture of an electricity system utterly reshaped around cheap wind, solar and batteries.”

Wind and solar were 8.2% of U.S. generation in 2017, with wind at 6.3% and solar at 1.9%, and U.S. grids are integrating record levels of renewables without disruption. Wind was 54% of Texas generation on October 27, 2017, and wind and solar together provided 64.6% of California’s power on May 26, 2018.

Investors say “phenomenally abundant” renewables could support a trillion-dollar U.S. market by 2030 and solar will play a key part, according to an April American Council on Renewable Energy survey.

Utilities are seeing the opportunity and responding, according to the 2018 Utility Solar Market Snapshot released in July by the SEPA.