Let a thousand solar parks bloom.
Projects like this are expected to be one of the drivers for the U.S. and global solar industry. Right now, utility scale solar parks in the U.S. are capable of generating less than 250 megawatts, according to GTM Research, or approximately the same amount of solar power installed in one of the slowest months ever (February 2010) for the German solar industry.
But contracts have been signed to build nearly five gigawatts worth of utility scale PV parks between now and 2015 in the U.S. The declining price of solar modules is also making these large module parks more attractive than solar thermal parks. Even if only half of those projects ever see the light of day, it would represent a 10 fold increase in the amount of utility scale solar fields in the U.S. over a five year period.
"Utility PV in the U.S. is a $1 billion market in 2010 and is projected to reach $8 billion by 2015," said Shayle Kann, GTM Research's Managing Director of Solar Research, who issued a report today on utility scale solar. "Solar industry players across the value chain have taken note, flocking to the market en masse to take advantage."
Late last month, NRG announced it would invest $300 million into Brightsource Energy's Ivanpah solar thermal power plant. NRG also owns the 21 megawatt photovoltaic facility in Blythe, California, currently the state's largest.
SunPower, along with First Solar
The picture, however, is changing. In September, Sharp purchased Recurrent Energy for $305 million. Iberdrola, juwi and several Chinese manufacturers also want to expand their presence in the U.S. utility market. While some like SunPower have said they will not develop their own projects, all are scrambling to find development partners.
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