Encouraged by incentives and power requirements, agricultural land in the US is being converted to renewable PV energy
Santa Clara, Calif. – While large-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar projects often grab the headlines, the recently-released NPD Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker report indicates that 40% of PV projects currently underway in the United States are less than 500 kW in size.
“These smaller projects have a considerable impact on the communities where they are being built, providing much-needed employment and energy cost reduction,” said Christine Beadle, Analyst for NPD Solarbuzz. “They also represent a significant opportunity for downstream balance-of-systems component suppliers and PV systems integrators within the United States.”
Figure 1: Number of PV Projects by System Size Within the US
Source: NPD Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker report
The NPD Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker report provides comprehensive details of commercial PV projects between 50 kW and 500 kW, which are often overlooked as opportunities for downstream PV suppliers and installers. In total, more than 1,300 projects fall into this category with a cumulative PV generation of up to 200 MW.
Smaller PV installations often have a greater impact on communities than larger ones, as they become much more than just a supply of electricity. Smaller projects cost less to install, are easier to gain permit approval, and have fewer barriers for project financing. And these projects are often installed at no cost to the host. Schools, municipal buildings, zoos, hospitals, and even retail stores such as IKEA are typically the host of these smaller installs.
The fact that 40% of all mid-size commercial installations in the United States (planned, under construction, or completed since January 2010) are these smaller projects highlights the amount of activity at this level and represents a growing revenue opportunity for balance-of-systems PV suppliers.
This NPD Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker report also reviews the progress of over 3,300 projects underway and compares the status of project completion to the previously-released report. As of the report’s publication, 1,756 US solar projects had been completed, 338 were being installed, 13 were delayed, and another 1,174 are at the planning stage.
California currently accounts for over a quarter 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, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii.
Solar Development Can Co-Exist with Agriculture
Land in the United States that had previously been used for agricultural purposes is now tending to be sacrificed to renewable energy when this presents a more profitable financial option, often encouraged by incentives or power requirements.
Additionally, some colleges have recently started using sheep to maintain the grass under PV arrays, and a test market is currently being constructed in North Carolina for a 4 MW installation to be used as a sheep and lamb farm and monitored for herd management. To date, this may be the most viable approach to utilizing agricultural land for energy production, creating a “win-win” for all involved.
“While PV arrays are often criticized for taking land away from agriculture and farming, the combination of sheep farming and PV power generation is a great solution in many areas, as farmers can benefit from two sources of income,” added Beadle. “And while the concept of sheep herding in the same field as a PV array is still in its infancy, it certainly shows a great deal of promise.”
The NPD Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker report projects 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), contact details, O&M, acreage, PPA provider, electricity off-taker, city, county, state, utility territory, timing of installation, module and inverter suppliers, racking/mounting suppliers, and monitoring details. Continue reading more…