US utility-scale solar pipeline swells to record 37.9GW

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Ingka Group owns all Ikea outlets. Source: Ikea.

The US now has a record-breaking 37.9GW of utility-scale solar in the works after 11.2GW of new projects were announced in H1 2019, according to a new report from Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

While the project pipeline has ballooned, the rate of installations slowed in the second quarter of 2019 compared to the same period the year prior, according to the latest US Solar Market Insight Report. 2.1GW was switched on, seven percent less than in 2018. However, Wood Mackenzie forecasts an overall 17% uptick on installations before the year is out, estimating that 12.6GW of utility-scale capacity will come online before 2020.

Utility-scale solar prices are at their lowest point ever, with recent power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed for US$18-35 per MWh.

SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said that “smart policies like an extension of the solar investment tax credit will be critical” for solar to reach 20% market penetration in the US by 2030.

The report calculates that by 2021 – the year the credit expires for residential systems and tapers to 10% for commercial projects – annual installations will reach 17.6GW. It also expects that total installed PV capacity will more than double over the next five years.

The report notes that 17% of the utility-scale capacity announced this year were off-site corporate solar projects fronted by the likes of Starbucks, Microsoft and Anheuser-Busch. It expects this segment to snowball. “Corporate offsite procurement is expected to drive more than 20% of new utility-scale capacity additions from 2019 through 2024,” said Colin Smith, senior solar analyst with Wood Mackenzie.

Residential solar grew 8% over the past year, with the second quarter of 2019 becoming the fourth consecutive where more than 600MW of residential capacity was installed.

Ikea store owner buys 49% stake in 403MW utility-scale duo

Adding to the fast-growing US solar pipeline this week was IKEA’s outlet owner Ingka Group, which unveiled a deal on Monday to buy a 49% stake in a 403MW utility-scale solar duo from investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

While the Dutch holding company owns wind assets in Europe and the US and owns and operates 900,000 rooftop panels on IKEA stores and distribution centres, this is its first investment in utility-scale solar.

One facility will come online in late September and comprise 636,000 panels in Utah. The other project is in Texas and will comprise 823,000 panels, scheduled for powering-up in January 2020.

The company has not divulged whether it will be purchasing power from the parks.

US solar prospects amid PPA uptake and a changing policy landscape will take centre stage at Solar Media's Solar & Storage Finance USA, to be held in New York on 29-30 October 2019

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