Next generation opportunities in utility-scale solar

The solar industry is steaming ahead, and 2016 was another record year with a global market of around 74 GW installed, up 30% from 2015. The current projection is that the total installed capacity will be more than double from today's 320 GW to some 680 GW by 2020 (21% annual growth), and reach 1,300 GW by 2025. At this rate, solar will overtake wind by 2020 in terms of annual capacity added, and by 2022 have more total capacity installed. Solar will then be placed right at the top across all energy sources in terms of new capacity added, representing a third of new capacity in 2020.

The utility-scale segment has been a key driver of the fast growth of solar during the last years, reaching almost 60% of all solar capacity installed in 2016 (Figure 3). A major trend for this segment has been a shift from mature European markets like Germany and Italy, which have relatively less utility-scale projects and more rooftop installations, to emerging markets like China and India, where utility-scale solar dominates.

According to report, utility-scale solar is a segment dominated by the standard multi-crystalline technology, typically deployed in 20-100 MW ground-mount projects, followed by monocrystalline and thin film (Figure 2). The other solar technologies deployed in utility projects are concentrated high-efficiency PV (CPV) and concentrated solar power that converts heat into steam (CSP). These technologies require high levels of direct solar irradiation (ideally desert conditions), which limits their market adoption, and these technologies have also struggled to bring down costs as fast as standard PV due to the smaller volumes deployed (~2%)

This document discusses the development of utility-scale solar and provides a perspective on opportunities and challenges for energy incumbents. It is a starting point for a discussion that many incumbents are currently engaged in – is there a viable role for us to play in utility-scale solar, and what should the strategy be? Find out in this report.

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