and has become competitive with grid power.”
Still, U.S. utilities may suffer the same burn
experienced by German utilities: An increase in
solar projects means a decrease in utilities’ profits.
About one-third of the U.S. utilities industry’s top
line could be at risk from solar competition by
2017. That year will be a pivotal one for U.S. solar
projects: The federal solar-investment tax credit
will be cut from 30 percent to 10 percent of the
total solar project value.
For now, the country’s solar industry is aiming
high. In February, the world’s largest solar plant,
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, opened
in the California Mojave Desert. The US$2.2 billion
facility can power about 140,000 homes per year.
India is on the cusp of becoming a global solar
power, the World Bank reported in December. In
the past few years, the country has made significant progress toward developing its abundant solar
power potential—and hitting its goal of a sixfold
increase in solar capacity by 2017. Since 2010,
when the government launched a plan to broadly
expand the country’s solar power, India’s solar
capacity has jumped from just 30 megawatts to
more than 2,000 megawatts.
The centerpiece of that plan is an initiative to
turn 60 Indian cities into solar ones; master plans
have already been approved for 36. In 2013, the
government launched a US$100 million project to
make the city of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, the
country’s first solar city.
In early 2014, India’s solar push took on added
urgency as the high cost of electricity became an
election-year issue. In April, a month before the
general elections, the government
launched a project to construct four
so-called mega solar power plants,
capable of generating 500 megawatts
each—which would nearly double the
country’s photovoltaic capacity. In
addition, a seven-year, US$4.4 billion
project in the state of Rajasthan will
be more than 10 times larger than any
other solar project ever built.
“India must see itself emerge as
the worldwide leader in harnessing
solar energy,” Rajendra Pachauri,
PhD, director-general of the Energy
and Resources Institute and chairman of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
England plans to increase its solar power eightfold—from 2. 4 gigawatts in 2013 to 20 gigawatts
by 2020. In January, the country installed its
500,000th set of solar panels—an important
milestone for its growing solar sector.
“A quiet solar revolution has been taking
place,” Leonie Greene, Solar Trade Association, told BusinessGreen.
And a not-so-quiet one: Earlier this year,
England unveiled the world’s largest solar-powered bridge. Some 4,400 photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof of the Blackfriars
Bridge above the Thames River in London. They
now provide up to half the energy for the city’s
Blackfriars railway station.
In central England, Lark Energy, a national
leader in solar development and installation,
last year launched a project to construct a
solar farm in a former cement quarry.
“It’s exactly the type of project that the government wants to see: a well-designed, well-screened scheme on brownfield land, strongly
supported by the local community with much of
the energy used on-site,” says Jonathan Selwyn,
Lark’s managing director.
Projects like that will help England achieve
3 gigawatts of solar capacity this year. “That
puts us right up there in the growth sectors of
anywhere in the world,” Greg Barker, the climate change minister,
told the British Parliament in January. “It’s a staggering achievement.” —Brigid Sweeney
In February, the world’s largest solar
plant, Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating
System, opened in California, USA.
n installed in 2012
n in total
Source: Global Market Outlook
for Photovoltaics 2013-2017,
European Photovoltaic Industry