Solar capacity is growing. Rapidly.
EIA, the Energy Information Administration, recently released figures on the growth of solar vs. natural gas power plant capacity additions for the first half of 2014. While natural gas appeared the winner at first glance, outperforming solar installations, it turns out that it was actually the silver medalist. EIA only compared large scale solar capacity additions. What they did not compare was the small scale, roof top solar installations commonly referred to as distributed generation. And this made all the difference.
Small scale roof top solar together with larger scale projects actually added 2478 megawatts of total capacity in the first half of 2014 whereas EIA’s data showed only ~1000 megawatts of solar capacity added. This is a significant difference. Total gas fired capacity was ~159 megawatts below the total solar figure making solar the clear winner.
It is also interesting to note that institutional investors are beginning to divest shares of public utilities. Utilities are stuck in a business model paradigm of the 20th century and appear to no longer be responding adequately to the needs of the grid. Brown outs are occurring with more frequency and instead of embracing solar’s ability to mitigate such stresses and modernizing their business plans, utilities are increasingly becoming more aggressive about limiting customers rights. It is akin to a form of business jingoism. Such attempts to curtail loss of control have now pitted utilities against their own customers.
In short, not a good place to be.