Trend Watch: Large-Scale Solar Projects In Unexpected Places


US States with binding & non-binding renewable portfolio standards (RPS), shown in brown. Image credit:USDOE.

We're used to seeing thermal solar generators planned for desert environments, where clouds are few and the sun unimpeded. Typically such locations are found on the interior of a continent. Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico...for example. Northern US coastal states tend to be cloudy and rainy for much of the year and until now have not shown up on the central solar radar. Regardless, on the East Coast of the US, a photovoltaic "sun farm," rated at 10 megawatts, is planned for the State of Delaware, near the city of Dover. On the West Coast State of Washington, private investors are planning a 75-megawatt photovoltaic ground installation - they're calling it a "solar farm." What's going on?

According to the News Pulse coverage, State-level requirements for utilities to bring renewable energy to the grid is a key driver.

The Dover SUN Park, when finalized and combined with our four wind energy projects, will go a long way toward ensuring Delmarva Power meets the state of Delaware's clean energy goals, which is for 20 percent of our power supply to come from renewable sources by 2019...[It] would be the first, utility-scale, solar power plant in the region...

The project would supply enough clean power for more than 1,700 homes and create about 150 local jobs during construction.

And, proving that you can't really generalize about a whole state, coastal or not - the Washington News Tribune points out that:

With its rainy reputation, Washington State doesn't seem like the place to build the world's biggest solar photovoltaic power plant.

But the sun shines 300 days a year on the Central Washington town of Cle Elum, where developers have announced plans for a 75-megawatt "solar park" they say could be up and running in about 18 months.

As with Delaware, Washington State also a requirement for utilities to provide renewable energy (15% by 2020).

Including Delaware and Washington, 32 US states currently have Renewable Portfolio Standards . Below is presented the current state listing, from Wikipedia. I marked in yellow, those states I thought of as having a suitable climate for solar farms. Drilling down a bit further, a State like Utah, with a coal dependency of 93% for electricity production, and a 20% RPS level due to be met in just 15 years, can expect to see much more solar farm growth.

But what of less sun bathed coal states as Pennsylvania, on the list as having an 18% RPS due to be met in just a decade? If Delaware can do it, surely Pennsylvania can get cracking on a "sun farm."


Renewable Portfolio Standards by state, as of July 2009.
More posts on renewable portfolio standards.
New York Lawyers Lawyer Up For the Climate
Who Should Own Solar Renewable Energy Credits in California ...
New Hampshire Moves Closer to Renewable Energy Standard
Minnesota Sets Pace for Renewable Energy

Tags: Solar Power

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