Will Natural Gas Dim Solar’s Shine?
On the outskirts of downtown St. Paul, Minn., Xcel Energy’s High Bridge Generating Station offers an iconic view of the current state of electrical generation in the United States. Opened in 2008 as a replacement for an aging coal plant, the 534-megawatt natural gas facility looms over three solar photovoltaic panels that provide a sculptural element to the site in addition to 9.8 kilowatts of electricity.
In the United States in 2014, PV accounted for around half of a percent of the nation’s electricity production compared with natural gas’s 27 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Yet if PV seems more ornamental than a serious energy contender, the data over the past two years documenting a dramatic increase in PV generation show a promising rookie ready to compete in the big leagues.