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Utility Scale Solar Shoots Sky High

Utilities have embraced utility-scale solar generation in a big way. In June, large solar installations at American utilities cranked out a record high 2.8 gigawatt-hours of electricity, up more than one-third from the previous year. Utility scale facilities have a capacity of at least 1 megawatt. Solar voltaic capacity grew by 47.5 percent from June 2014 to June 2015, according to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In that time, utility solar thermal capacity was up more than 18 percent.

Utilities have embraced utility-scale solar generation in a big way.

In June, large solar installations at American utilities cranked out a record high 2.8 gigawatt-hours of electricity, up more than one-third from the previous year.

Utility scale facilities have a capacity of at least 1 megawatt.

Solar voltaic capacity grew by 47.5 percent from June 2014 to June 2015, according to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In that time, utility solar thermal capacity was up more than 18 percent.

Another indicator of the magnitude of utilities’ embrace of solar: June solar voltaic output was 31 times the level of one decade earlier, EIA said.

Top ten states, led by California.

California accounted for 57 percent of the total utility scale solar generation. Arizona was the second most important state, generating more than 13 percent of the total.

“Beginning in 2011, photovoltaic generation began to grow at a higher rate than thermal generation, even though solar thermal generation has continued to expand as well,” EIA said.

Economics is driving utility solar growth, one industry observer said.

"As solar generation numbers continue their dramatic rise, we are seeing a corresponding drop in the prices being bid in 2015 to build utility scale solar," says Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association. "Wholesale prices of 5 cents per kilowatt hour and below make solar a competitive choice for new generation in a growing number of markets, regardless of technology or mandates." 

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