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US solar capacity additions slip a bit in Q3'19

The U.S. added 588 MW of solar generating capacity during the third quarter, a 14% decline compared to the same quarter in 2018, data from S&P Global Market Intelligence shows. With the new additions, the cumulative installed utility-scale capacity surpassed 35,300 MW.

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California led the U.S. in installed capacity during the quarter, with 135 MW of capacity added. This includes the 100-MW San Pablo Raceway Solar Project, the largest project completed during the quarter. The output of the facility, which is majority-owned by Sustainable Power Group LLC, known as sPower, is under a 22-year power purchase agreement with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages community choice aggregator CleanPowerSF.

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Hawaii saw the second-largest amount of solar capacity installed, at 110 MW. This included the 49-MW Kawailoa Solar Project and the 46-MW Waipio (Waiawa) PV Solar Project, two of the largest projects completed in the quarter. Both are operated by Clearway Energy Inc., and the output is sold under contract to local utility Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc.

South Carolina saw the third-most capacity installed during the quarter, at 79 MW. The Palmetto Plains Solar Project accounts for most of the capacity installed in the state, at 75 MW. The project is jointly owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board and Public Sector Pension Investment Board, another Canadian pension fund manager, and was the second-largest plant brought online in the quarter. The output is sold to local utility Dominion Energy South Carolina Inc.

A total of 596 MW of solar capacity was announced during the quarter. The largest project is the 200-MW Morrow Lake Solar facility in Frio County, Texas, owned by Austin, Texas, developer SunChase Power LLC.

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Apex Clean Energy Inc. owns the majority of the announced capacity, at 394 MW spread across four projects. The largest is the 150-MW Panfish Solar Plant slated to be installed in Douglas County, Minn., in 2022.

As of Nov. 25, more than 66,868 MW of solar capacity with known online years through 2023 were in various stages of development across the U.S., with 6,463 MW, or 10%, designated as under construction. Another 10% was in advanced development. S&P Global Market Intelligence considers a solar project to be in advanced development when two of the following five criteria are met: financing is in place, a power purchase agreement is signed, panels are secured, required permits are approved or a contractor has signed on to the project.

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North Carolina led U.S. states with capacity in advanced development, at 2,588 MW. Texas had the most capacity under construction, at 1,835 MW.

Solar projects that start construction or meet a financial safe harbor before the end of 2019 are eligible for a 30% investment tax credit. That tax credit would ramp down over the next few years, ultimately reaching 10% in 2022 for commercial and utility-scale projects.

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The Palen Solar Project (Maverick 4 Solar Project) (Almasol) was the largest project in the late stages of development. The 500-MW facility owned by EDF Group subsidiary EDF Renewables Inc. is slated to come online in December 2020 in Riverside County, Calif. Southern California Edison Co. and Shell Energy North America (US) LP each have a 15-year power purchase agreement for part of the plant's output.

The largest solar project under construction is the 420-MW Permian Energy Center in Andrews County, Texas. The plant is owned by Ørsted A/S subsidiary Lincoln Clean Energy LLC and will have 40 MW of storage on-site. Exxon Mobil Corp. holds a 12-year power purchase agreement for 250 MW.

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