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Southeast solar generation expected to more than double in three years: report

Highlights

Seven states currently have 8,035 MW of solar

SACE projects 17,000 MW by end of 2021

Houston — The US' seven southeastern states, long viewed as tied to coal-fired generation and generally opposed to renewables, had 8,035 MW of installed solar generation capacity combined at the end of 2018, with a projection now of 10,000 MW by the end of this year and of 17,000 MW by the end of 2021, according to a report released late last week by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a nonprofit based in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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The SACE report said the bulk of the solar power, or roughly 7,500 MW of the current total, was coming from utility-scale facilities, with approximately 500 MW of distributed solar. The report also noted that even with over 19,000 MW by the end of 2022, solar generation will be "less than 4% of retail sales, considerably below levels that could trigger changes in grid operation practices."

The report pointed Duke Energy Progress, SCE&G, Duke Energy Carolinas and Georgia Power as the current utility leaders, ranked by watts per customer. Each of the four currently offer more than 400 watts of solar per customer.

It said that Duke Energy and its affiliates "have more than half of all the solar in the Southeast."

However, it also said that NextEra Energy utility affiliate, Florida Power & Light, "recently announced the boldest 10-year solar commitment of any utility in the country."

The report estimated that FPL will more than double the annual pace of solar expansion for the largest utility in the Southeast (4.9 million customers), and will exceed 3,500 MW of solar by 2022.

As elsewhere in the country, corporate entities have been actively contracting for solar power in the region.

"Facebook drove major solar commitments in Georgia (203 MW), Alabama (227 MW) and Tennessee (150 MW). Google announced projects for Tennessee and Alabama (150 MW each) and also joined with Target, Walmart, and Johnson & Johnson, to contract with Georgia Power for 177 MW of solar," the report said.

The SACE report said that Santee Cooper, North Carolina Electric Cooperatives, and Seminole Electric Cooperative are "sticking with outdated plans for low levels of solar."

"Despite being home to several of the corporate projects, TVA falls into this category, as well. We project that solar watts per customer for these four utilities will remain below today's regional average W/C through at least 2022." In a 2018 Southeast Solar snapshot per state, the SACE report said that North Carolina had 3,266 MW of solar, Florida 1,622 MW, Georgia 1,419 MW, South Carolina 1,116 MW, Tennessee 272 MW Mississippi 187 MW and Alabama 153 MW.

-- Jeffrey Ryser, jeffrey.ryser@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Pankti Mehta, newsdesk@spglobal.com