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Utility-scale solar in 2014: Unpredictable, diverse and counting down to ITC sunset

2014 was utility-scale solar’s most successful year ever, with 115 projects of 5 megawatts (MW) or more completed for a total of 3,550 MW. It was also the year when utility-scale solar stopped being predictable as the market's underlying geographic, system capacity and policy trends underwent some noticeable changes.

Utility solar's record 2014 Q4: More projects, more diversity

The utility-scale solar market, the segment that has led the dramatic growth of solar in the United States over the past few years, continued to expand in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to analysis conducted by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). Beyond newly added solar capacity, we see signs of emerging markets for solar outside California and the Southwest, and some significant changes in the contractual structure of projects.

Mainstreaming solar energy means trade-offs -- and rewards

Two concentrated solar power plants are among five finalists for a major industry award, nominations that underline the technical achievements and increasing acceptance of large-scale solar into the United States' energy mainstream. CSP may remain controversial in the public mind for its costs and environmental impacts, but anyone who has seen one of these mammoth projects spreading out over thousands of acres of public land in the American Southwest cannot help but be a little awestruck.

The EPA and Palen hearings: Unfolding the future of utility-scale solar?

Those interested in the future of utility-scale solar development in the United States will be keeping eyes and ears on a series of public hearings this week. The Environmental Protection Agency is holding four sessions on its proposed regulations for cutting carbon emissions at power plants, with three set for July 29-30 in Atlanta, Denver and Washington, D.C., and the fourth, July 31-Aug. 1 in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the California Energy Commission will also be holding three-days of public hearings July 29-31, with the outcome possibly determining the fate of the 500-megawatt (MW) Palen solar project and, with it, the future of utility-scale solar-tower plants in the U.S.