Advantages from utility-scale solar PV technologies
Here in the United States, we’re lucky to have a diverse supply of energy sources producing electricity for our homes and businesses. This diversity helps keep costs low and ensures a steady, reliable supply of electricity. As a former public utility commissioner charged with ensuring utility services are provided at rates and conditions that are fair and in the best interest of consumers, I am especially attuned to this. And as we live increasingly plugged-in lives, with countless devices that need to be powered up or charged, always-on electricity is becoming even more of a necessity.
In recent years, a number of new electricity sources have begun to contribute power to our grid. Renewable energy sources such as hydropower, biomass, geothermal, solar and wind now make up 13 percent of our electricity supply. These sources add even more diversity to the natural gas, nuclear, and coal plants that provide the bulk of our electricity. So in addition to driving the growth of new and innovative technologies like clean coal, small modular reactors, smart grid applications and a host of other things, there’s opportunity for electric utilities to continue to grow and advance the use of renewable energy sources. In fact, currently, there is almost 20 GW of installed solar capacity facilities in the U.S. and utility-scale accounts for around 60% of that installed capacity.
What’s more, a new report from the Brattle Group looks at the advantages that are gained from utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies for consumers. It finds that utility-scale solar PV is particularly cost-effective when considered as a vehicle for achieving the economic and policy benefits commonly associated with PV solar, including reduced carbon emissions. In fact, the report finds that utility-scale solar is about half as expensive on a per MW basis compared to residential rooftop solar systems in their reference case – $83/MWh for utility vs. $167/MWh for residential (these prices are based on historical data, and are not necessarily reflective of current prices.)