By Mark Halper
Posting in Energy
Led by California, New Jersey and DOE support, photovoltaic capacity will hit 2.4 gigawatts in 2011, research firm says. That's still in the long shadow of fossil fuel and nuclear.
Still, solar will continue to sit under the long, long shadow of other energy sources like fossil fuels and nuclear. While the 2.4 GW represents an impressive 166% gain over what IHS says was 900 GW installed in 2010, it’s less than 1% of the U.S. electricity total.
For some perspective, in 2010, the U.S generated about 4,120 billion kilowatthours (4,100 gigawatthours) of electricity according to the Energy Information Administration, about 70% of which came from fossil fuels - some 45% from coal – and 20% from nuclear.
The solar percentage looks slightly better, although still fractional, when compared with new capacity. According to information released yesterday by the EIA, the U.S. added 11.25 GW of capacity in the first six months of this year.
Comparing the IHS numbers with the EIA statistics (sorry for the apples and oranges, but the mixed fruit pie chart in this case does at least give a representative flavor of the story), the 11.25 GW of overall new capacity for half a year is 7.5 times the 1.5 GW of new solar for the entire year.
“From January to June 2011, 162 electric power generators were added in 36 states, for a total of 11,255 megawatts (MW) of new capacity,” EIA reported. "Of the ten states with the highest levels of capacity additions, most of the new capacity uses natural gas, coal, or wind.”
If you assume that overall capacity will grow by the same amount in the second half- admittedly a fluffy assumption – then PV is about 6% of the new stuff. That’s starting to sound a little better than the “less than one percent” space to which solar has been relegated in overall contribution to U.S. electricity. It also gets it closer to the more respectable 1% ascribed to solar’s renewable rival, wind.
The IHS forecast does not include electricity generated from solar thermal plants.
IHS said the 1.5 GW rise in solar PV capacity comes largely from the installation of utility scale plants, and that California is leading all states this year in new PV “by a wide margin” with 967 megawatts, followed by New Jersey with 263 MW, Arizona with 243 MW, New Mexico with 139 MW and Nevada with 118 MW.
“The number of U.S. PV installations this year is projected to climb to approximately 49,000—up from 39,000 in 2010,” IHS said in a press release. “Of the 2.4GW in solar power expected to be installed this year, ground installations will contribute approximately 1.4GW, commercial installations 710 megawatts (MW) and residential installations 270MW.”
It attributed the increase in part to loan guarantees provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, which it says will support continued growth while Europe PV slumps. IHS predicted that U.S. PV capacity will hit 3.1 GW next year, and 5.5 GW by 2015.
Aug 17, 2011
As an employee of the FERC, it was almost astounding to me how very much more valuable peak capacity, a.k.a. spinning reserve, is than mere megawatts of nameplate capacity. That's a statement that needs elucidation. When it snowed less than usual in the western mountains of the USA, the snowmelt for the Columbia river watershed, the Colorado river, and various other catchments supplying hydropower to California was ... diminished. It set the stage for some highly antisocial profitmaking, immoral if not provably illegal. The dispatchers for an electricity distributor have a difficult job. They are expected to bring generators online that supply power at different prices. They, or the buyers working for the company, have to ensure that whatever demand they might expect can be met from power companies in the generating business. Now, when the demand suddenly goes up (in Britain, everybody switches on a tea kettle when the commercials come on) by far the best response is, if you have a hydropower supplier, to open the tap for the water behind a spinning turbine to flow even more freely and drive it more powerfully. But if there isn't enough water behind the dam, they want to be frugal with it. The most extreme example of this is hydroelectric pumped storage, where you have an artificial underground river, fed by a high pond, and you fill up the pond at night by pumping water uphill, then let it back down at peak demand time to drive your turbines. The point of the previous paragraph is that when the demand gets near the peak planned power level capacity, the cost to the distributor of failing to meet it is that some of the generators supplying power will slow down morethan others, and a fraction of a 60th of a second of alternating current could mean that one generator, for part of the cycle, instead of supplying power would be consuming it. Such a situation if it cascades means that the entire grid crashes. Now we come to the flaws in various "renewable energy" technologies. It is a common practice for their proponents to tell us how many thousand "homes" the new project will serve. They take the average power the project will deliver, divide it by the average power required by the households they serve, and say that the project can serve N thousand "homes". It is nonsense.There is a great tendency in some cases for even people's heat pumps, efficient as they are, to all demand at once to be fed more power.
Mr. Halper, I appreciate your drawing attention to the existence of some actual facts available on the web from EIA. Note that their statistics are actual facts, but their projections may well be fictitious, or worse, politically motivated by the holders of the status quo ante -- what's the Latin for "crash"? Now, Power is measured in Watts, kiloWatts, megaWatts, and even gigaWatts. These are all SI units. The basic SI unit of power is the Joule, and a Watt is a rate of energy of one Joule per second. Household consumption of electric energy is measured in kWh, which are kilowatt.hours i.e. 3600 thousand Joules. My modest house has an electric input array of breakers, feeding about six 15A circuits, eight 20A, and one each at 40A for my heat pump, dryer, and stove. It also has a master that would cut off at 150A. So I could easily run a current of 60A, which at 110 volts would be 6.6 kilowatts of power demand.