If you learn solar information, you already know U.S. solar tasks have reached whopping proportions.
The pattern goes past particular person information: the sheer variety of these big tasks is rising as effectively. The tally of tasks bigger than 120 megawatts AC going into service within the U.S. will soar from 11 in 2019 to 32 in 2021, in response to knowledge from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
Sean Kiernan, senior vice chairman of improvement at 8minute Solar Energy, remembers when “large” meant greater than 20 megawatts. The largest tasks now underneath improvement within the U.S. slide slightly below 700 megawatts DC.
“Clearly we’re seeing out there that … bigger tasks, the place doable, could have some fairly clear advantages,” mentioned Kiernan.
Those advantages embody economies of scale and better manufacturing returns from improvement work. But the proliferation of giant tasks has additionally sparked controversy in components of the nation. Conservation teams have warned that Gemini Solar, a partnership between Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners and Arevia Power and the most important project at present underneath improvement within the U.S., may hurt desert wildlife within the space.
U.S. tasks bigger than 120 Megawatts AC
Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables
The potential to scale tasks up is determined by the placement. California and Texas, the 2 states with probably the most tasks larger than 120 megawatts in response to WoodMac, supply ample house and a great solar useful resource. In components of the Northeast, attaining that scale is troublesome if not unimaginable.
“I’m impressed and amazed by some developers who have gone to some markets like PJM and have been able to do really large projects,” mentioned Kiernan. “I know first-hand how incredibly difficult that would be.”
So will project sizes proceed to develop, together with after the funding tax credit score phases down? It stays to be seen. The “elusive 1.0-gigawatt DC project” might arrive inside this decade, mentioned Colin Smith, a senior solar analyst at WoodMac.
Are economies of scale overrated?
At the identical time, many within the trade level to amount somewhat than dimension as an indicator of success.
“The reality is that a project at 100-megawatts or higher all have the same economy of scale,” mentioned Benoit Allehaut, managing director on the clear energy infrastructure group at funding agency Capital Dynamics, which claims to personal seven of the 20 largest U.S. solar tasks.
“Solar is very, very modular,” Allehaut mentioned. “If we need to attain 50 p.c and down the road 100 p.c renewable energy, there shall be a necessity for a really, very massive variety of property.”
Though builders dimension tasks to satisfy demand and seize the most effective economics, in the long run, the dimensions of the project could also be as a lot concerning the wow issue as anything.
Though builders dimension tasks to satisfy demand and seize the most effective economics, in the long run, the dimensions of the project can also be constructed for wow issue. Most states with renewable portfolio requirements plan to satisfy them via a mixture of distributed technology, large-scale tasks and effectivity measures.
“To me, greater tasks are ‘bragawatts,’” said WoodMac’s Smith. “The vital issue is what will drive extra solar within the U.S. it’s far more vital and noteworthy to see fifteen 100-megawatt tasks signal PPAs in a given state than it’s to see [one] 1,000 megawatt tasks.”
“The area where size does matter and bigger is better is energy storage,” Smith added. “We are not far away from hearing about not being able to add more solar unless more storage is added to the grid as well.”