As utility-scale solar power continues to grow across the United States, representatives from several of the country’s major utilities will meet at Solar Power Generation USA to assess the benefits, limitations, and future of different solar technologies. Industry leaders and changemakers from such utilities as NV Energy, Duke Energy, and Southern California Edison will come together in Las Vegas at the end of January to evaluate and determine the future of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), Photovoltaic (PV), and Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) projects. According to Clean Edge’s Utility Solar Assessment Study, solar power will contribute 10 percent of America’s power needs by 2025, yet how this increase will be distributed across all of the available technologies is still to be determined.
“By gathering key decision makers from the major utilities, we can foster a lively discussion about not only the strengths and weaknesses of each solar technology, but also how each one can continue to play an increasing role in the US’s energy mix,” said Laura Dinnewell, Director of Solar Power Generation USA. “As the field continues to advance, and the costs fall, it will be the utilities that ultimately drive the adoption of these technologies.”
Shayle Kann, managing director of GTM Research’s solar practice, reported that 2011 saw more than 650 MW of utility-scale PV connected to the grid – more than 150 percent growth over 2010. Kann said it was the first time the US utility market reached meaningful volumes on a global scale. The market, however, became increasingly competitive, and procurement did not increase in proportion to developer interest. Additionally In the area of CSP, the high-profile switch of several large projects over to PV also cast doubt on this sector.
More than 10 GWs of projects with power purchase agreements (PPA) are in the pipeline, and an additional 35GW of projects anticipate signing PPAs in the next 18 months. Kann commented,“Unless utility procurement surprises on the upside, 2012 will be a difficult year for developers with early stage pipelines. In addition, the potential imposition of import tariffs on Chinese cells and modules will impact the economics of many projects that had anticipated closing financing this year.”
Obtaining PPAs and securing finance for project development may be increasingly competitive in 2012. During the first day of the Solar Power Generation 2012 USA conference,“Utility Strategy Session”, attendees will hear how public and private utilities view the economics of the solar market in the current climate.
Industry investors, including Citigroup, Union Bank, and Wells Fargo, are expected to follow the conference’s dialog closely. As reported by Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the US lead the industry in clean energy investment in 2011, but much was attributed to federal and financial incentives that have since expired. Whether the funding can still be generated to support the projects yet to sign PPAs will be a priority topic.
Named the 2011 “Best American Conference” by the Conference Awards, Solar Power Generation USA will feature more than 60 subject-matter experts speaking across four dedicated channels: CSP, PV, CPV, and Operation and Maintenance (O&M). Hundreds of industry leaders will decide the future of solar in the US during the event, which runs January 31 through February 2 in Las Vegas.
More information on the 2012 SPG agenda, awards, and registration for utilities, attendees, and the news media can be found by following SPG on Twitter at @SolarPowerGenUS and by joining the LinkedIn Solar Power Generation USA 2012 group.
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