Solar Module Price Cuts Stimulate Massive Growth in US Photovoltaic Project Pipeline

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09.12.2011
San Francisco, California  United States

Large cuts in factory gate module prices over the summer have resulted in a significant increase in photovoltaic (PV) project development activity in the US. After standing at 17 gigawatts (GW) two months ago, the US non-residential pipeline has now increased to 24 GW.

The September 2011 edition of the United States Deal Tracker database released by Solarbuzz this week identifies 1,865 non-residential projects totaling 25.9 GW either installed, being installed or in their development phase since January 1, 2010. Development phase projects include pre-RFP, going through the RFP process, or planned without RFP.

California currently accounts for 61% of the total US project pipeline, stimulated by the state’s aggressive 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard target, and benefiting from the recent trend of solar projects reallocated from concentrated solar power to PV.

The top six state pipelines in megawatt terms are California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, New Jersey, and New Mexico; in total, 44 states now contribute to the pipeline.

Utility-driven project activity is now evident across 35 states, while other non-residential projects below 1 MW remain an important segment of the market, accounting for 771 projects being monitored. 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 currently account for 51% of the total pipeline.

The collapse in US factory-gate module prices over the past four months is only now starting to impact utility project prices, much more than system sizes below one megawatt. One-fifth of the installed system prices above one megawatt are now $3.75 per watt STC DC (Standard Test Conditions, Direct Current) or below.

“Utility expectations for improved installed pricing measured either in per watt peak or kilowatt hour have vastly increased over the past quarter,” said Craig Stevens, President, Solarbuzz. “The result is more RFPs and an acceleration of PV orders.”

For those projects in the pipeline that have selected their module suppliers, the top three suppliers in MW terms are First Solar, SunPower Corporation, and Suntech Power. Yingli Green, Sharp and SolarWorld are increasing their presence in non-residential projects. The leading inverter suppliers to the pipeline remain Advanced Energy and SatCon Technology.

The Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker reports project activity in the non-residential (including utilities) segment. The parameters in the database for each installation include owner or host name, project developer, installer, system size (MWp and first year MWh), installed system pricing, system type (ground mount, roof mount, BIPV, tracking, carports), acreage, PPA provider, electricity off-taker, city, county, state, utility territory, timing of installation, module and inverter suppliers, installer and project developer contact details.