Earlier this week, we hosted a webinar featuring an overview of SACE’s 2017 Solar in the Southeast Annual Report along with time for questions and answers. We recorded that webinar and you can access it here.
The report highlights solar data and trends throughout the region, including Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. We use a “watts per customer” metric (the amount of installed solar relative to the total number of customers served) to identify which utilities are leading (the SunRisers, as we call them) and which are lagging (aptly named, SunBlockers).
I’ll also include some of the questions (and answers) here, as well:
- How will the solar tariffs recently enacted by President Trump impact your forecast?
The projections for our Solar in the Southeast 2017 Annual Report were completed before President Trump decided to impose new tariffs on imports of solar cells and modules. Early assessments of the new tariffs suggest job losses of 23,000 in the solar industry this year (2018) and an 11% slowdown in solar installations through 2022 — with some southeastern states disproportionately affected. Much of the growth in the SACE forecast represents existing contracts and commitments that remain highly certain. And the new tariffs just became effective on February 7 so the SACE forecast can serve as a gauge of how significantly the President’s decision affects solar growth in the Southeast.
- What is the largest solar project in the Southeast?
The SandHills Solar project in Butler (Taylor County) GA is the largest in our current (2017) dataset. It’s 146 MW. It’s owned by Southern Power, covers more than 900 acres, and it serves coops through Oglethorpe (primarily, Cobb Electric Membership Corporation (EMC), Flint EMC, Sawnee EMC, Middle Georgia EMC and Irwin EMC.)
Just last month, Georgia Power announced a 200 MW project for Twiggs County, GA. (2000 acres, near Warner Robbins). That one should be online by the end of next year (2019).
- Is solar really cost-effective compared to other forms of electricity?
The short answer is yes. The 3rd party resource we often reference for solar pricing is Lazard. They publish a “Levelized Cost of Energy” (LCOE) study every year. In their 2017 update from November, they expressed that utility-scale solar prices had decreased 86% in 8 years (2009-2017). My colleague, Simon Mahan, blogged about it at the time (Report: Wind, solar are cheapest options, NOW).
They report the unsubsidized LCOE for utility-scale solar between 4.3-5.3 cents per kWh. (With subsidies, 3.5-4.2 cents/kWh). For comparison, the range for combined cycle natural gas is 4.2-7.8 cents/kWh.