In 2008, tight credit and reigned-in consumer spending slowed the march of solar in the residential and commercial markets. But the just-released, second-annual Solar Electric Power Association report, 2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings, shows the steady growth of solar at utilities nationwide.
Installed Capacity Up 25 Percent
The report looks at how much solar was interconnected in calendar year 2008 and cumulative solar installations through the end of 2008, and includes both photovoltaics and concentrating solar power. Ninety-two utilities participated (out of some 3,000 nationwide), representing an 80 percent participation rate increase over the 2007 study – though it’s worth noting that participating utilities generally self-select into the survey as a result of having active solar programs.
Results show an average increase of 2 megawatts among participating utilities over the year, enough to offset the use of over 300 homes on an annual basis. Overall installed capacity of the utilities that participated in the study rose 25 percent, from 711 megawatts to 882.
PG&E Leads the Pack in Interconnection
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), based in San Francisco, which interconnected 85 megawatts of new capacity, led the field (and represented 44 percent of the survey total) for total solar megawatts interconnected. Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric placed second and third. While the top three utilities came from California, utilities in seven different states placed in the top ten.
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission dominated first for total solar watts per customer, with 2700 watts per customer, with Kauai Island Coop (Hawaii) (47 watts per customer) and Palo Alto Utilities (44 watts per customer) in second and third place.
Southern California Edison Top Ranked for Solar Integration
As for the cumulative rankings, Southern California Edison ranked as the most solar integrated utility, with 441 megawatts, with PG&E (229 megawatts) and NV Energy (78) in second and third, respectively. Utilities from six different states placed in the top ten.
A number of favorable trends suggest utilities could lead the way in solar as the country works itself out of the doldrums. Prior to October 2008, the 30 percent federal investment tax credit wasn’t available to utilities, but the bailout bill removed that provision, giving investor-owned utilities an additional incentive – on top of rising rates for conventional electricity, falling costs of solar, and looming federal carbon legislation – to build solar installations.
The Solar Electric Power Association is a 501c(3) that’s focused on education and research, solar solutions for electric utilities. Read their pdf report.
The 2008 List (From the PDF):
TOTAL SOLAR MEGAWATTS
#1 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. – CA (84.9)
#2 Southern California Edison – CA (32.4)
#3 San Diego Gas & Electric Co. – CA (16.0)
#4 Public Serv. Co. of CO (Xcel Energy) – CO (14.2)
#5 Public Service Electric & Gas Co. – NJ (5.5)
#6 Arizona Public Service Co. – AZ (3.56)
#7 Hawaiian Electric Co. – HI (3.54)
#8 Portland General Electric – OR (3.538)
#9 Sacramento Municipal Utility District – CA (2.9)
#10 Long Island Power Authority – NY (2.5)
TOTAL SOLAR WATTS PER CUSTOMER
#1 San Francisco PUC – CA (2696.3)
#2 Kauai Island Utility Coop. – HI (47.1)
#3 Palo Alto Utilities – CA (44.4)
#4 Maui Electric Co. – HI (32.7)
#5 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. – CA (16.4)
#6 Hawaii Electric Light Co. – HI (13.6)
#7 Burbank Water & Power – CA (12.9)
#8 Black Hills Energy – CO (12.5)
#9 Hawaiian Electric Co. – HI (12.0)
#10 San Diego Gas & Electric Co. – CA (11.8)
Frank Marquardt is the author of The Solar Job Guide.