By Tom Randall, Bloomberg Business
capacity factor – the percentage of a power plant’s maximum potential that’s actually achieved over time
For the first time, widespread adoption of renewables [in the U.S.] is effectively lowering the capacity factor for fossil fuels. That’s because once a solar or wind project is built, the marginal cost of the electricity it produces is pretty much zero—free electricity—while coal and gas plants require more fuel for every new watt produced. If you’re a power company with a choice, you choose the free stuff every time. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. As more renewables are installed, coal and natural gas plants are used less. As coal and gas are used less, the cost of using them to generate electricity goes up. As the cost of coal and gas power rises, more renewables will be installed.
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ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING
Wind And Solar Energy Technologies Eat Into Fossil Fuel Power’s Business Plan, by Mike Scott, Contributor, Forbes. Excerpt: As a widely quoted report from Bernstein Research says: “Renewable energy is a technology. In the technology sector, costs always go down. Fossil fuels are extracted. In extractive industries, costs (almost) always go up. Renewable and fossil fuel cost per unit of energy are now roughly comparable in many places . . . but heading in opposite directions.”
Photo: Greentech Media
Shattering previous records, the United States residential solar market grew 76 percent over the first quarter of 2014, installing 437 megawatts[i] (MW) of photovoltaics (PV) in the first three months of 2015. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Q1 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV across all market segments.
“Today’s report reveals just how important establishing and maintaining effective, forward-looking public policies, like the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), are to America,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “Solar continues to be the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States. By 2016, the U.S. will be generating enough clean solar energy to power 8 million homes. That means solar will offset 45 million metric tons of damaging carbon emissions – the equivalent of removing 10 million cars off our roads and highways.”
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Additional Recommended Reading
12 Reasons Why Solar Is Having an Explosive Year, by Rhone Resch, EcoWatch
U.S. Rooftop Solar Capacity Jumps Record 76% in First Quarter, by Justin Doom, Bloomberg Business
By Naureen Malik, Bloomberg Business
Move over, shale. The sun is now the fastest-growing source of U.S. electricity.
Solar power capacity in the U.S. has jumped 20-fold since 2008 as companies including Apple Inc. use it to reduce their carbon footprints. Rooftop panels are sprouting on homes from suburban New York to Phoenix, driven by suppliers such as Solar City Corp. and NRG Energy Inc.