The number of photovoltaic (PV) projects under development in the United States has increased due to a recent drop over the summer for the cost of solar modules. Analysts estimate that the price for solar modules (or solar panels) has dropped by 25 percent since the beginning of the year. The pipeline of non-residential projects now stands at 24 GW, up from 17 GW only two months ago.
A recently released United States Deal Tracker Database revealed that 1,865 new solar projects are either installed, being installed, or are in the development stages. The 1,865 new projects will account for 25.9 GW of new electricity.
This is good news for utilities looking to develop renewable energy. For instance, utilities in California are required to derive 33% of their energy portfolio from renewable sources.
“Utility expectations for improved installed pricing measured either in per watt peak or kilowatt hour have vastly increased over the past quarter,” said President of Solarbuzz, Craig Stevens. “The result is more RFPs (requests for proposals) and an acceleration of PV orders.”
Some utilities have even altered the type of solar technology they develop due to the recent price contraction. For instance, Solar Millennium decided to drop its plans for concentrating solar thermal systems because PV would be more cost-effective.
While the recent price drop is beneficial for utilities looking to develop solar power, it has devastated less competitive solar panel manufacturers, unable to keep up with the global market. In particular, the high-profile solar manufacturer Solyndra has had to close its doors because its solar panels are costlier to manufacture than other solar panel designs.
However, this also highlights one of the benefits of lower solar module prices: it forces companies to remain competitive and continue to make technological advances to make their product cheaper. This constant drive to achieve lower manufacturing costs has even led some experts to believe that solar power will be able to provide 100% of the world’s power by 2030.
How do you feel about the solar power sector in the US? Do you think the government should do anything more to encourage growth?
Image CC licensed by USFWS Mountain-Prairie