Industry Groups: U.S. Solar, Geothermal Projects Surged in 2009

Despite the recession, reports from U.S. renewable industry groups show that the nation’s solar energy industry enjoyed a 36% increase in revenue and overall 5% increase in installations in 2009, while geothermal projects under development grew more than 26%.

"US Solar Industry Year in Review 2009” (PDF) a report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association last week, found that the rooftop photovoltaic (PV) market grew by 33%, three new concentrating solar power (CSP) utility-scale projects came online, and $1.4 billion of venture capital was invested (more than in any other "clean" technology, according to SEIA).

The report lists these three CSP facilities as coming online in 2009: the 5-MW Sierra SunTower from eSolar, the 2-MW Holaniku trough from Sopogy, and the 5-MW Kimberlina linear Fresnel system from AREVA Solar (formerly Ausra). "The Sierra SunTower is the first power tower operating in the U.S. in a decade and Holaniku is the first CSP facility to come online in Hawaii," it states.

Growth of PV installations nearly tripled, from 22 MW in 2008 to 66 MW in 2009. "Two utility-scale solar power projects became the largest and second largest installations in the U.S. The 25-MWac DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center and the 21-MWac FSE Blythe bumped the 14-MWac Nellis Air Force Base installation into third place."

The association attributes a lot of this growth to federal policy, including the solar investment tax credit (ITC) and the economic stimulus provisions. The SEIA report notes that "As of early February 2010, more than 46 MW of solar capacity has been deployed with the help of the Section 1603 Treasury grants in lieu of the investment tax credit (ITC). Solar equipment manufacturers have been awarded $600 million in manufacturing tax credits under ARRA, representing investments in new and upgraded factories of more than $2 billion."

The entire report, which includes financing overviews, state renewable energy standards developments, summaries of solar activity around the world, and more is available on the SEIA website.

Last week, in its April 2010 “U.S. Geothermal Power Production and Development Update” (PDF), the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) said that projects under development in the U.S. had surged to 188 in 15 states. When completed, the new projects could add as much as 7,875 MW of new baseload electric power to national grids, the industry group concluded.

Nevada continued to be the leading state for new geothermal energy, with more than 3,000 MW under development. The fastest growing geothermal power states were Utah (which quadrupled its geothermal power under development) and New Mexico (which tripled). These were followed by Idaho—which doubled—and Oregon, which reported a 50% increase. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas all also reported their first geothermal projects compared with a year earlier.

New geothermal power projects are in progress in 15 states from the Pacific to the Gulf Coast. GEA identified new projects in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. In addition to large utility-scale power projects, the survey showed expanding interest in small power systems (under 1 MW), with projects in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oregon, and Wyoming.

As with the solar industry, GEA credited growth in geothermal projects under development to “the federal stimulus, tax incentives, and strong state renewable standards [that] continue to fuel the growth in geothermal power.”

The report also notes that in 2009, geothermal developers brought seven geothermal projects online, adding approximately 176 MW in five states. These include Enel North America’s completion of two 65-MW geothermal projects in Nevada, Nevada Geothermal Power’s 50-MW Blue Mountain Faulkner 1 power plant, Ormat Technologies’ 50-MW North Brawley power plant in California, and Raser Technologies’ Thermo No. 1 or Hatch (10 MW) power plant, which became operational in Utah in April 2009.

Sources: SEIA, GEA

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