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Title: PV Project Finance in the United States, 2016

Abstract

This brief is a compilation of data points and market insights that reflect the state of the project finance market for solar photovoltaic (PV) assets in the United States as of the third quarter of 2016. This information can generally be used as a simplified benchmark of the costs associated with securing financing for solar PV as well as the cost of the financing itself (i.e., the cost of capital). Three sources of capital are considered -- tax equity, sponsor equity, and debt -- across three segments of the PV marketplace.

Authors:
; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Solar Energy Technologies Office (EE-4S)
OSTI Identifier:
1326178
Report Number(s):
NREL/BR-6A20-66991
DOE Contract Number:
AC36-08GO28308
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
14 SOLAR ENERGY; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY, AND ECONOMY; finance; solar project; photovoltaic; PV; financing; soft costs; solar soft costs; balance of system; solar balance of system

Citation Formats

Feldman, David, Lowder, Travis, and Schwabe, Paul. PV Project Finance in the United States, 2016. United States: N. p., 2016. Web.
Feldman, David, Lowder, Travis, & Schwabe, Paul. PV Project Finance in the United States, 2016. United States.
Feldman, David, Lowder, Travis, and Schwabe, Paul. Thu . "PV Project Finance in the United States, 2016". United States. doi:. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1326178.
@article{osti_1326178,
title = {PV Project Finance in the United States, 2016},
author = {Feldman, David and Lowder, Travis and Schwabe, Paul},
abstractNote = {This brief is a compilation of data points and market insights that reflect the state of the project finance market for solar photovoltaic (PV) assets in the United States as of the third quarter of 2016. This information can generally be used as a simplified benchmark of the costs associated with securing financing for solar PV as well as the cost of the financing itself (i.e., the cost of capital). Three sources of capital are considered -- tax equity, sponsor equity, and debt -- across three segments of the PV marketplace.},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Sep 01 00:00:00 EDT 2016},
month = {Thu Sep 01 00:00:00 EDT 2016}
}
  • This brief is a compilation of data points and market insights that reflect the state of the project finance market for solar photovoltaic (PV) assets in the United States as of the third quarter of 2017. This information can generally be used as a simplified benchmark of the costs associated with securing financing for solar PV as well as the cost of the financing itself (i.e., the cost of capital). This work represents the second DOE sponsored effort to benchmark financing costs across the residential, commercial, and utility-scale PV markets, as part of its larger effort to benchmark the componentsmore » of PV system costs.« less
  • The utility-scale solar sector has led the overall U.S. solar market in terms of installed capacity since 2012. In 2016, the utility-scale sector installed more than 2.5 times as much new capacity as did the residential and commercial sectors combined, and is expected to maintain its dominant position for at least another five years. This report—the fifth edition in an ongoing annual series—provides data-driven analysis of the utility-scale solar project fleet in the United States. We analyze not just installed project prices, but also operating costs, capacity factors, and power purchase agreement ("PPA") prices from a large sample of utility-scalemore » PV and CSP projects throughout the United States. Highlights from this year's edition include the following: Installation Trends: The use of solar tracking devices dominated 2016 installations, at nearly 80% of all new capacity. In a reflection of the ongoing geographic expansion of the market beyond California and the Southwest, the median long-term average insolation level at newly built project sites declined again in 2016. While new fixed-tilt projects are now seen predominantly in less-sunny regions, tracking projects are increasingly pushing into these same regions. The median inverter loading ratio has stabilized in 2016 at 1.3 for both tracking and fixed-tilt projects. Installed Prices: Median installed PV project prices within a sizable sample have fallen by two-thirds since the 2007-2009 period, to $2.2/WAC (or $1.7/WDC) for projects completed in 2016. The lowest 20th percentile of projects within our 2016 sample were priced at or below $2.0/WAC, with the lowest-priced projects around $1.5/WAC. Overall price dispersion across the entire sample and across geographic regions decreased significantly in 2016. Operation and Maintenance (“O&M”) Costs: What limited empirical O&M cost data are publicly available suggest that PV O&M costs were in the neighborhood of $18/kWAC-year, or $8/MWh, in 2016. These numbers include only those costs incurred to directly operate and maintain the generating plant. Capacity Factors: The cumulative net AC capacity factors of individual PV projects range widely, from 15.4% to 35.5%, with a sample median of 26.3%. This project-level variation is based on a number of factors, including the strength of the solar resource at the project site, whether the array is mounted at a fixed-tilt or on a tracking mechanism, the inverter loading ratio, degradation, and curtailment. Changes in at least the first three of these factors drove mean capacity factors higher from 2010- to 2013-vintage projects, where they’ve remained fairly steady among both 2014- and 2015-vintage projects as an ongoing increase in the prevalence of tracking has been offset by a build-out of lower resource sites. Meanwhile, several of the newer CSP projects in the United States are struggling to match long-term performance expectations. PPA Prices: Driven by lower installed project prices and improving capacity factors, levelized PPA prices for utility-scale PV have fallen dramatically over time. Most recent PPAs in our sample are priced at or below $50/MWh levelized, with a few priced as aggressively as ~$30/MWh. Though impressive in pace and scale, these falling PPA prices have been offset to some degree by declining wholesale market value within high penetration markets like California, where in 2016 a MWh of solar generation was worth just 83% of a MWh of flat, round-the-clock generation. At the end of 2016, there were at least 121.4 GW of utility-scale solar power capacity within the interconnection queues across the nation. The growth within these queues is widely distributed across all regions of the country: California and the Southeast each account for 23% of the 83.3 GW of solar that first entered the queues in 2016, followed by the Northeast (17%), the Southwest (16%), the Central region (12%), Texas (6%) and the Northwest (3%). The widening geographic distribution of solar projects is a clear sign that the utility-scale market is maturing and expanding outside of its traditional high-insolation comfort zones.« less
  • The Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory, agreed to cooperate in photovoltaic applications. A number of small-scale applications were identified for which both sides would cost share 50-50. This paper describes the sustainable village electrification project carried out in West Bengal in cooperation with the Ramakrishna Mission, the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency, and Exide Industries Ltd. A number of cost-effective applications have been identified and are in the process of being installed in the Sundarbans region near Calcutta. {copyright} {ital 1997 American Institute of Physics.}