Not-So-Bright Future for Utility-Scale Solar Projects

Construction and permitting for large solar facilities like those located in the desert at the border of California and Nevada is nearly non-existent. Uncertainty over expiring tax credits is only partly to blame.
January 13, 2014, 2pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Steve Rainwater

The bloom is off the rose for utility-scale solar projects, just five years after the Obama Administration made a big push for such projects as part of a nationwide renewable energy program. The lack of utility-scale projects stands in stark contrast to exponential growth in distributed, roof-top solar installations.

“Of the 365 federal solar applications since 2009, just 20 plants are on track to be built. Only three large-scale solar facilities have gone online, two in California and one in Nevada. The first auction of public land for solar developers, an event once highly anticipated by federal planners, failed to draw a single bid last fall,” reports Julie Cart.

Blame for the lack of projects can be found in the sunset for the current investment tax credit, scheduled to drop from 30 percent to 10 percent at the end of 2016. The lack of investments is also a result of the initial success by utilities in meeting renewable portfolio standards in states like California: “...utilities in many states are on track to meet those requirements, giving them less incentive to buy higher-priced solar energy —especially as a steep decline in natural gas prices has cut the cost of power from gas-fired generators.”

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Published on Saturday, January 11, 2014 in Los Angeles Times
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