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Finding a bright spot

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1 Author(s)
Key, T. ; EPRI

The photovoltaic (PV) industry has been a steady bright spot through economic ups and downs, and the future is looking brighter than ever. PV deployment has grown rapidly - from 0.3 MW in the 1980s to an expected 3,000 MW by 2010. Fueled by technical, economic, environmental, and social drivers, the contribution of PV to the U.S. electricity supply mix will likely be several times that amount by 2020. PV power systems and the utility industry have had a 25-year courtship with many different types of engagement. Utilities participated in the first ground-mounted power plants and rooftop installations on residences, schools, airports, hospitals, and other public buildings. These projects included U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-sponsored residential experiment stations in Maine, Florida, and New Mexico in the 1980s; early PV plants in California and throughout the Southwest; and grid connection, demonstrations, inverter and system testing, and related standards development. Electric service providers are well positioned to expand their engagement in deploying PV systems. Many have found themselves in a bright spot relative to solar business opportunities. However, most providers are still facing the decision of whether to modify traditional business models for active engagement or maintain a reactive stance relative to PV and grid integrations. In either case, R&D that will lead to a more flexible and interactive electric distribution system is needed. A near-term priority for individual utilities is to define the grid-interactive and grid-independent applications and markets that offer the greatest potential risks and rewards and to develop plans for addressing them. This is particularly important in areas with excellent solar resources, strong incentives,or both. And this may hold true across the country under current policy and market conditions.

Published in:

Power and Energy Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:7 ,  Issue: 3 )