Utilities Double Solar Energy Capacity in 2010

Consisting of America’s electric utilities and solar companies, Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has released its latest report in which its research has revealed that utilities are increasingly expanding their solar power generation portfolios and astonishingly most of these solar instalments are materializing outside of California.

SEPA’s Fourth Annual Top 10 Utility Solar Rankings that analyzes utility solar electricity markets in the United States found that in 2010, utility integrated solar grew 100% from 2009. Of the Top 10 ranked utilities, seven of which are from outside of California contributed 561 MW of solar electric capacity. Actually, SEPA found that 63% of the utilities from outside of California are the largest percentage accounted. In 2010, thirty utilities reported owning 140 MW of solar which is a drastic 300% increase from 2009.

SEPA’s annual rankings measure a utility’s recently installed solar power and include photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies that were incorporated between January 1 and December 31, 2010. The rankings are categorized into ‘Solar Megawatts’ which measures a utility’s total solar capacities and ‘Solar Watts-per-Customer (w/c)’ which regulates solar capacity by the size of the utility.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) which put in a further 157 MW of solar power capacity in 2010 topped the Solar Megawatt ranking whilst its competitor Florida Power & Light Company secured a second place with 82 MW of added solar capacity. The third spot was held by the New Jersey’s Public Service Electric & Gas Co. (PSEG), which added 75 MW of solar capacity in 2010.

The Solar Watts-per-Customer (w/c) was topped by California’s Silicon Valley Power by adding 40-watts per customer. Just 5 watts behind Silicon Valley Power was runner up Public Service Electric & Gas Co. (PSEG) at 35.2-watts per customer. The competition was tight for the third spot with Hawaiian Electric Company Inc. snatching it with 33.2-watts per customer.

SEPA’s report concluded that this year’s Top 10 not only portrays a rapid rise in the solar instalments on utility grids but a inclination towards utility-led initiatives; the reason behind the expansion of the solar market. Until a few years ago, the solar utilities installed were customer dominated, net metered systems. In 2010, the prominence shifted to large, centralized plants and utility-owned projects.