by Colin Smith, Solar Analyst at GTM Research

We're glad to be able to share with you the data-overview of the 25 largest US utility-scale solar PV plant portfolios, provided by GTM Research, our content partner for Solar Asset Management North America 2017. We've published the top 5 here, along with some insightful observations by GTM's Colin Smith. The full top 25 is freely available upon completing the short form at the bottom of the article.


Top 5 US utility-scale PV project owners

Rank Owner Contracted Pipeline (MWdc) Projects Operating (MWdc) Contracted + Operating (MWdc)
1 First Solar 1992 392 2383
2 Southern Company 546 1507 2053
3 NextEra Energy Resources 298 1727 2025
4 Cypress Creek Renewables 1229 578 1807
5 NRG Energy 929 823 1752

2016 has been the largest single year for U.S. utility PV and consequently we have seen shifts in the U.S. utility PV project owner landscape. Q3 and Q4 2016 were the two largest quarters for cumulative MWdc installed leading to over 8.5 GWdc installed in 2016 and more 2016 project announcements are expected in the coming weeks. When the dust settles, the cumulative capacity of utility PV operating in the U.S. will have increased by more than 70% in a single year.

With so many projects coming online, there will be a flurry of project acquisition and shifts in the rankings of established project owners. Berkshire Hathaway Energy, currently the single largest U.S. utility PV portfolio, had been inactive for most of 2016 until it announced in Q4 that they had purchased Alamo 6 from OCI, increasing their portfolio by 143 MWdc. NextEra and Southern Company, currently the second and third largest utility PV portfolios, have both announced that their tax equity appetite will see them shifting away from solar to more wind acquisition in the coming year. Dominion, ConEdison Development, and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments have each more than doubled the number of MWdc in their portfolio of operating utility PV projects.  With so much growth it is likely we will see the number of companies with portfolios of 1GW or more rise from 3 companies to over a dozen by the end of 2017.

There is also a shift in the type of companies that are buying projects as project M&A is increasingly driven by unregulated IPP arms of utility holding companies. The deregulated development arms of several companies like Duke Energy and Southern Company have grown their operating portfolios in 2016 with most projects being outside of the service territory of their regulated utility counterpart. The second largest segment of buyers continues to be non-utility yieldcos but as the U.S. Utility PV segment matures, regulated utility affiliates could increase their portfolios as well.

GTM is expecting 4.7 GWdc of projects to come online in Q4 2016 but won't be sure of the cumulative MW completed until the end of January. As the year progresses, we will see more project acquisition as long term owners buy projects from developers and see the utility PV project owner landscape change even further.


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