Utility-Scale Solar, 2021 Edition: Empirical Trends in Deployment, Technology, Cost, Performance, PPA Pricing, and Value in the United States

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Berkeley Lab’s “Utility-Scale Solar, 2021 Edition” provides an overview of key trends in the U.S. market, with a focus on 2020. Highlights of this year’s update include:

  • A record of nearly 9.6 GWAC of new utility-scale PV capacity came online in 2020, bringing cumulative installed capacity to more than 38.7 GWAC across 43 states.
  • 89% of all new utility-scale PV capacity added in 2020 uses single-axis tracking.
  • Median installed project costs declined to $1.4/WAC (or $1.1/WDC) in 2020.
  • Project-level capacity factors vary widely, from 9% to 36% (on an AC basis), with a sample median of 24%. The report explores drivers of this variation.
  • Utility-scale PV’s LCOE fell to $34/MWh in 2020 ($28/MWh if factoring in the federal investment tax credit, or ITC).
  • PPA prices have largely followed the decline in solar’s LCOE over time, but have stagnated more recently. Prices from a sample of recent contracts average just above $20/MWh (levelized).
  • In 2020, solar’s average market value (defined in the report to include only energy and capacity value) exceeded average wholesale prices in 12 of the 17 balancing authorities analyzed (including 4 of the 7 independent system operators across the United States).
  • Adding battery storage is one way to increase the value of solar. Our public data file tracks metadata for more than 150 PV+battery hybrid projects that are already online or that have secured offtake arrangements.
  • At the end of 2020, there were at least 460 GW of utility-scale solar power capacity within the interconnection queues across the nation, 160 GW of which include batteries.

For more information, and to explore related interactive data visualizations, go to utilityscalesolar.lbl.gov.

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A webinar discussing this research recorded on October 12, 2021, can be viewed here


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