Solar Market: Are Municipalities The New Solar Frontier?

I just returned from the Solar Power Generation conference, which was held last week in Las Vegas. A lot of interesting discussions about the future of utility-scale solar projects in the United States and abroad (focusing on the three major technologies currently available: PV, concentrated solar (solar thermal) and concentrated PV).

Shayle Kann of GTM Research forecasts that the utility-scale solar market will grow at least 100% in 2012, but noted that a new market may be opening up for solar developers: municipalities.

Kann estimated that there are 2,000 municipalities in the United States (though according the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 19,492), and that they beginning to look seriously at adding renewable energy to their portfolios — to lower electricity rates for their residents, to be “cutting-edge” in the energy field, to bring in new revenues — the reasons for turning to renewable energy are almost as varied as the municipalities themselves.

Anecdotally, I get at least 15 to 20 press releases a day telling me that this town, this city or this school district are building PV installations on their roofs and on municipal-owned land (in fact, in our February issue, we’ll be featuring once such project in our Racking and Mounting section). It seems that these deals are getting done much more quickly and much more easily than traditional utility projects because the financing is easier to get (many of the conference’s speakers noted that the European debt crisis is going to make getting credit difficult for the rest of the year).

This market is one to watch in the future — I know I’ll be watching it carefully. Let me know what you’re seeing out there and if you think Kann’s assessment is correct.

(For more of my thoughts on the Solar Power Generation show, see my live reports here and here.)



  1. Kathie Zipp says:

    In your other show recap you said you heard utility solar is going to be slow to grow, but Kann says it will grow at least 100%? Is this just because there isn’t much utility-scale solar anyway? Or farms are getting larger? I know most solar farms are less MW than wind (at least right now and according to projects in our handbook).