US Solar PV Project Pipeline Hits 17 Gigawatts

There are now over 17 gigawatts (GW) of solar non-residential PV projects in the pipeline in the US, making it one of the most compelling markets in the world.

601 projects ranging in size from 50 kilowatts (kW) to 500 megawatts (MW) have planned installation dates from the second half of 2011 to 2015, according to the July 2011 edition of the United States Deal Tracker database released by Solarbuzz.

Since January 1, 2010, 1,565 non-residential projects totaling 20.3 GW are installed, being installed or in the development stage. 

62% of these projects are in California, thanks to its  aggressive 33% Renewable Energy Standard.

State Renewable Energy Standard policies are a major driver in the rapid adoption of renewable energies because they require utilities to source a set percentage of their energy from renewables by a target date (a national RES was a key part of the federal Energy Bill, which never made it to a vote last year). 

The top six state pipelines in megawatt terms are California, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and Texas while, in total, 40 states contribute to the pipeline.

The fast developing non-residential segment has created an important and growing opportunity for project developers, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies. The top 12 project developers account for 49% of the total pipeline.

Significant Challenges

The collapse in US factory module prices over the past four months is only now starting to impact prices for large projects.

System prices including installation for planned projects over 1 MW are averaging $4.50 per watt, but about 32% of these projects are below $4.00 per watt. 

"With the overall US market size forecast around 2 GW in 2011, there remains significant challenges for the 17 GW in the pipeline," says Craig Stevens, President, Solarbuzz. "Most notably, these include aligning project structure with financing sources, overcoming regulatory challenges and taking full advantage of recent price movements in the market to procure the best mix of PV system components."

For those projects in the pipeline that have selected their module suppliers, the top three suppliers in MW terms are First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR), SunPower Corporation (Nasdaq: SPWRA) and Suntech Power (NYSE: STP). The leading inverter suppliers to the pipeline are Advanced Energy (Nasdaq: AEIS) and SatCon Technology (Nasdaq: SATC).

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