Berkeley Lab’s “Utility-Scale Solar, 2021 Edition” presents analysis of empirical plant-level data from the U.S. fleet of ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV), PV+battery, and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) plants with capacities exceeding 5 MWAC. While focused on key developments in 2020, this report explores trends in deployment, technology, capital and operating costs, capacity factors, the levelized cost of solar energy (LCOE), power purchase agreement (PPA) prices, and wholesale market value.
Key findings from this year’s report 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.
The report, published in slide-deck format, is accompanied by a narrative technical brief, a public data file, and interactive data visualizations. All four products are accessible via the menu bar below. A webinar recorded on October 12, 2021, can be viewed here.
We want to hear from you. If you have specific questions about the report or data, suggestions for potential improvements, or requests for analytical support, you can submit those comments through a separate form here, and they will be routed to the appropriate staff.