- Utility-scale photovoltaic solar sent 12,303 gigawatt-hours of electricity to U.S. grids during the first 9 months of 2014, up from 6,048 gigawatt-hours in 2013’s first 9 months, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
- The 30% federal Investment Tax Credit, which was established in 2008 and will drop to 10% after 2016, was the key driver behind solar’s growth because it provided long-term stable support.
- The other major factor driving growth was the 70% drop since 2008 in the contract price of solar-generated electricity delivered to the grid. Agreements in 2013 and 2014 were signed at $0.05 per kilowatt-hour, according to Utility-Scale Solar 2013 from DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
The 100% growth of solar, which now provides 0.4% of U.S. power, came from new projects and from projects performing above projections.
The $1.6 billion 250 megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch, for instance, was expected to produce 662,000 megawatt-hours per year. In its first year, it generated 697,759 megawatt-hours.
The 70% price drop was driven by economies of scale and solar module market competition.
Without the DOE Loan Guarantee program, there might not have been financing for the first utility-scale installations.
Another key Obama administration pro-solar policy was the cash-grant-in-lieu-of-tax-credits option that sustained the industry through the recession when tax equity evaporated.
Solar will be 1% of U.S. power by or just beyond the end of 2014 and Environment America estimated it could provide 10% of U.S. power by 2030 if it grows 22% annually, slower than its current pace.
The biggest potential hurdle is in whether Congress will extend the 30% ITC.