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The forecast is sunny, with lower costs already here

October 04, 2017   By Elizabeth Kress in Green Energy

The cost of solar panels continues to decline.

The solar photovoltaics (PV) industry has seen cost reductions and other milestones much faster than expected.

The U.S. Department of Energy developed its SunShot program to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption. For utility-scale solar, the 2020 goal of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) was recently reached three years early.

This LCOE does not include any federal, state or local incentives. The average levelized price of purchased-power agreements signed in 2016 was approximately $35 per megawatt-hour, although there is some chance that module pricing and other issues could keep a portion of those projects from being built.

Nationally, there are 47 gigawatts (GW) of solar installed in the U.S.  In South Carolina at the end of 2016, 25 megawatts (MW) were installed, which includes 12 MW of residential, 10 MW of utility-scale and 3 MW of other solar. Looking around at our neighboring states, North Carolina ranks second in the U.S. for installed solar capacity with 3.5 GW, and Georgia is ninth with 1.5 GW. 

The top corporate solar users include names you will recognize. Target is the largest user with 147.5 MW of solar, followed by Walmart with 145MW. Apple, Costco, and Kohl’s are on the top 10 list. Hartz Mountain, the pet products company, comes in at  No. 10. So, do dogs or cats care about where their power comes from?

Yes, solar presents some new situations for utilities to plan for, but there is a wealth of knowledge and experience already out there to draw from. That experience is as close by as our neighboring states.