Utility-Scale Solar Data Update: 2020 Edition

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Berkeley Lab’s 2020 update of utility-scale solar data and trends provides an overview of key trends in the U.S. market, with a focus on 2019. Highlights of this year’s update include:

  • More than 4.5 GWAC of utility-scale solar (i.e., ground-mounted solar projects larger than 5 MWAC) achieved commercial operations in 2019, bringing cumulative capacity to 29 GWAC.  Projects are spread across all 10 regions that we track, though more heavily concentrated in the sunniest regions. 
  • The median installed cost of projects that came online in 2019 fell to $1.4/WAC ($1.2/WDC), down 20% from 2018 and down by more than 70% from 2010. 77% of projects and 88% of capacity added in 2019 used single-axis tracking. 
  • Average capacity factors range from 17% in the least-sunny regions to 30% where it is sunniest.  Single-axis tracking adds roughly five percentage points to capacity factor in the regions with the strongest solar resource.
  • Nationwide average levelized power purchase agreement (PPA) prices fell to $24/MWh in 2019, down 17% from 2018 and more than 80% since 2010. Thirty-nine projects (totaling 4.2 GWAC) in our PPA price sample include battery storage (totaling 2.3 GWAC and 9.5 GWh). In the “lower 48” states, a number of these recent PV+battery PPAs have been inked in the mid-$20/MWh range (levelized in 2019 dollars).
  • Not including the 30% investment tax credit (ITC), the median levelized cost of energy (LCOE) from utility-scale PV has declined by 85% since 2010, to $40/MWh in 2019. When the 30% ITC is included within the LCOE calculation, the median LCOE closely tracks the median PPA price over time.
  • In higher-penetration markets like CAISO, the value of solar has been declining, but falling PPA prices have largely kept pace, preserving solar’s net value.
  • At the end of 2019, there were nearly 370 GW of solar in interconnection queues from all 7 ISOs and 30 additional utilities across the country. Nearly a third of this proposed solar capacity is paired with battery storage.

For more information and to explore related interactive data visualizations, go to utilityscalesolar.lbl.gov.


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A webinar recorded December 8, 2020, featuring data and analysis from our utility-scale solar and utility-scale wind market tracking products can be viewed here


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