Full Title: Utility-Scale Solar 2015 Utility-Scale Solar 2015. An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States.
Author(s): Mark Bolinger and Joachim Seel
Publisher(s): Berkeley National Laboratory
Publication Date: August 1, 2016
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The utility-scale solar sector—defined here to include any ground-mounted photovoltaic (“PV”), concentrating photovoltaic (“CPV”), or concentrating solar power (“CSP”) project that is larger than 5 MWAC in capacity—has led the overall U.S. solar market in terms of installed capacity since 2012. It is expected to maintain its market-leading position for at least another five years, driven in part by December 2015’s three-year extension of the 30% federal investment tax credit (“ITC”) through 2019 (coupled with a favorable switch to a “start construction” rather than a “placed in service” eligibility requirement, and a gradual phase down of the credit to 10% by 2022). In fact, in 2016 alone, the utility-scale sector is projected to install more than twice as much new capacity as it ever has previously in a single year. This unprecedented boom makes it difficult, yet more important than ever, to stay abreast of the latest utility-scale market developments and trends.
This report—the fourth edition in an ongoing annual series—is intended to help meet this need, by providing in-depth, annually updated, data-driven analysis of the utility-scale solar project fleet in the United States. Drawing on empirical project-level data from a wide range of sources, this report analyzes not just installed project costs or prices—i.e., the traditional realm of most solar economic analyses—but also operating costs, capacity factors, and power purchase agreement (“PPA”) prices from a large sample of utility-scale solar projects throughout the United States. Given its current dominance in the market, utility-scale PV also dominates much of this report, though data from CPV and CSP projects are also presented where appropriate