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PV solar power gains momentum with utilities

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CIOL Bureau
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MUMBAI: Research undertaken by Gartner, Inc. and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has revealed that utilities are becoming increasingly interested in procuring photovoltaic (PV) solar power generation systems.

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The Gartner/SEPA survey found that PV is one of the leading technologies for near-term renewable energy for utilities, said a press release.

The survey also found that utilities view onshore wind and biomass as the other key near-term renewable energy sources

Gartner and SEPA conducted a survey of utilities in Europe and the U.S. to understand their requirements and objectives for integrating PV solar systems into their energy generation portfolios.

A telephone survey of utility firms in the U.S., Germany, Spain, Italy and France was supplemented by an online survey in the U.S. The survey was conducted from mid-December 2009 through mid-February 2010, and it included 134 respondents.

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“PV solar systems are a cost-effective means of adding distributed and central generation sources,” said Alfonso Velosa, research director at Gartner.

He added that the system costs have decreased by over 30 per cent since 2008.This has lowered the cost of electricity from these systems and improved their competitiveness relative to other renewable energy sources.

Utilities in Germany clearly lead in the use of PV resources, with 75 per cent of the German utilities surveyed currently using PV as part of their energy resource portfolio. An additional 15 percent of utilities are considering adding PV to their portfolio within five years. To a large extent, this reflects a decade-long effort by the German government to support renewable energy.

Among U.S. utilities, 44 percent of those surveyed indicated they had PV solar energy resources and another 33 percent consider PV solar power generation for use within five years.

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“Clearly, U.S. utilities, and their customers, have been exploring the PV market. To some extent, they may also have been learning from activities in markets such as Germany,” said Mike Taylor, director of research at SEPA.

He added that the large number of U.S. utilities that are using

PV systems indicates that they are building up their experience with the technology in anticipation of expansive solar growth and new policy initiatives that could occur.

The survey found that renewable energy requirements and government requirements are the top two global factors behind the utilities' decisions to integrate PV supply into their energy portfolios. This is due to the higher costs of PV energy relative to retail and wholesale electricity prices, and, more importantly, the prevalence of various procurement and incentive requirements in different countries.

“Overall, the survey indicated that federal policy and state regulatory levels have strong influence over utility procurement decisions and strategies,” Taylor added.

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