According to the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) US utilities connected 9.4 GW of solar energy to the grid in 2016.
SEPA issued its 2017 Utility Solar Market Snapshot, which found that the US currently has 33.4 GW of solar energy online, with more than a quarter of that, 9.4 GW, having been interconnected to the grid by utilities last year.
The alliance notes that utility-scale solar continues to represent the majority of new solar capacity, which grew 84% year-over-year in 2016, far outpacing residential, which grew 11%, and non residential, which grew 20%.
Another area of strong growth is community solar. SEPA says that the community solar energy segment continues to "boom" — with 311 MW now online and more than 300 MW in the pipeline — while utilities pilot other new options, such as rooftop leasing models, with a particular focus on expanding access to low-income customers.
California and Vermont implemented successor policies to net metering in 2016, while 28 states considered changes to the key solar incentive. Forty-six utilities in 35 states filed requests for increases in fixed charges.
Utilities embrace new technologies and business models
“What’s exciting about the survey is seeing the how solar is growing outside the traditional markets — like California, Hawaii and Arizona,” said SEPA research analyst Brenda Chew, who led this year’s survey.
“We now have thriving solar energy markets in the Southeast, and we’re seeing growth in states such as Utah and Arkansas — another sign that solar really is a competitive, mainstream power.”
[quote] More than 415 utilities provided data directly to SEPA for this year’s survey — a 20% increase over the previous year, she said.
“Utilities and their technology partners across the industry are increasingly focused on designing the programs and business models that will provide customers with more choice and control in the energy they use, while also supporting a reliable, clean and resilient grid,” said Julia Hamm, SEPA president and CEO.
“Obviously, there are challenges ahead, but what we see in this year’s survey is a real excitement about the new opportunities solar and other distributed technologies are bringing to the market.”