Photovoltaic Solar Power Is Gaining Momentum With Utilities

Utilities in Europe and the US are becoming increasingly interested in procuring photovoltaic (PV) solar power generation systems, according to research undertaken by Gartner, the information technology research and advisory company, and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). The Gartner/SEPA survey found that PV is one of the leading technologies for near-term renewable energy for utilities. 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 US to understand their requirements and objectives for integrating PV solar systems into their energy generation portfolios. A telephone survey of utility firms in the US, Germany, Spain, Italy and France was supplemented by an online survey in the US. The survey was conducted from mid-December 2009 through mid-February 2010, and it included 134 respondents.

“PV solar systems are a cost-effective means of adding distributed and central generation sources,” says Alfonso Velosa, research director at Gartner. “System costs have decreased by over 30% since 2008. This has lowered the cost of electricity from these systems and improved their competitiveness relative to other renewable energy sources. PV systems are attractive to many organisations and individuals as they can be designed relatively easily, in a wide range of sizes and to fit in many different locations.”

Utilities in Germany clearly lead in the use of PV resources, with 75% of the German utilities surveyed currently using PV as part of their energy resource portfolio. An additional 15% 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 US utilities, 44% of those surveyed indicated they had PV solar energy resources and another 33% consider PV solar power generation for use within five years.

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.

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