Five years after renewable energy initiatives championed by the Obama administration sparked a boom in the construction of large-scale solar farms, development has slowed to a crawl, reports The Los Angeles Times.
Of the 365 federal large solar farm applications since 2009, just 20 are expected to be built. Just three large-scale farms have gone online, one in Nevada and two in California. Furthermore, the slowing in the industry has led to a number of solar developers going out of business, the paper reports.
There are several problems, according to analysts. Unsurprisingly, the economic downturn has negatively affected financing and the federal government has not yet said if will continue to offer the large tax credits that parked the building boom half a decade ago, the paper reports.
Furthermore, developers are having trouble negotiating contracts to sell their power to utilities. Many of the agreed contracts are selling energy at a higher price than traditional fuels, the paper reports. Some of these relatively-highly priced contracts are the result of utilities scrambling to meet mandatory renewable energy use targets set by state and local governments. But with enough renewable energy now available to meet many of these targets developers, and banks, are unwilling to jump into more projects, the paper reports.
According to Amit Ronen, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute, the industry is in a “development period” with developers waiting for more certainty over the tax credits. Utilities are also holding off on new projects until they can see how new farms coming online this year fit into the grid, he says.
Scientists and engineers nationwide are still figuring out how best to protect the grid from something usually seen as benign and helpful: renewable energy, the paper reported in December.
As the US’s network of solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal grows ever bigger, these scientists are growing increasingly worried about the stress such 21st century power sources could place on a grid designed for the 20th century, the paper reports.
Photo credit: Power plant using renewable solar energy with sun via Shutterstock