In March 2017, for the first time ever, solar and wind energy accounted for 10% of the country’s electricity generation (8% wind and 2% solar), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Let’s unpack that statistic with a couple more from the Solar Energy Industry Association:
Installation of solar generation capacity has grown on average 54% annually since 2006, while solar costs have come down 70% since 2010, making them increasingly cost-competitive with other resources. That’s why nearly 60% of installed solar capacity last year was utility-scale.
It’s also why some industry projections have solar and wind generation surpassing coal and nuclear on a combined basis by 2030.
These numbers and trends should not come as a surprise to anyone. The more pressing topic is how utilities are going to evolve their planning, operations and business models to enable this profound change and turn it into a growth opportunity.
Renewables come with mighty challenges
As with any opportunity, embracing solar and wind energy comes with its own set of challenges:
While 10% renewable penetration is proving entirely manageable, increasing to 30%, 40% and even 50% penetration (the goal of many state-level standards) compounds the challenges of forecasting, operations and planning.
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