Survey reveals solar power winners in utilities sector

by Antonio Pasolini on July 29, 2008

Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) earlier this week announced a list of top utilities in the United States that had the most solar electricity integrated into their energy mix as of the end of 2007. The rankings are based on
information provided through a survey of utilities and independent research.

“Based on recent announcements and internal discussions with utilities, SEPA anticipates that utilities will quickly become the largest and one of the most important customers for the solar industry,” said Julia Hamm, SEPA executive director. “Whether solar electric systems are developed by utilities, their customers, or solar companies, the utilities’ proactive engagement with emerging solar technologies is important to the solar industry as a whole. This market survey and resulting rankings provide a baseline against which
increased utility activity can be measured in the future.”

In the last year, U.S. electric utilities’ engagement with grid-connected solar electricity increased significantly, with major photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar thermal (CST) announcements by utilities, their customers, and third-party solar developers. Utilities have traditionally operated as a solar facilitator, integrating customer developed projects. However, recently there have been several announcements by utilities of new entrepreneurial ideas that provide fresh solutions to regulatory, customer and internal issues.

Southern California Edison (CA) appears at the tof the list as the most solar integrated utility with the most overall solar capacity (MW) and solar capacity per customer (MW/customer) for total solar electric capacity by megawatt (MW). Southern California Edison’s long-standing contracts with the SEGS concentrating solar thermal (CST) plants drive its large number of solar megawatts. However, with a number of recent large-scale CST announcements by several other utilities, Southern California Edison’s top ranking may no longer hold once these new plants are constructed.

“These top ten rankings highlight solar-leading utilities that have put significant efforts into facilitating what have traditionally been customer-based solar solutions,” says Mike Taylor, SEPA director of research. “What has become apparent however is that over the next few years, there will be an unprecedented level of new utility engagement in the solar industry that develops both centralized and distributed systems in new and unique ways. Several U.S. utilities, some of whom aren’t in these rankings yet, are positioning
themselves to be the solar industries largest and most innovative customers.”

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