Despite the looming threat of the Section 201 case, utilities across the United States are continuing to procure solar, even if some projects have been put on hold until there is greater clarity around module prices.
Three solar projects totaling 510 MW have been awarded contracts under a competitive solicitation for large-scale renewable energy projects by utility Georgia Power. The Twiggs County, Quitman and Camilla projects have won 30-year contracts at an average price of $36 per megawatt-hour (MWh), which is competitive with natural gas-fired generation.
While California recently announced even lower long-term prices for solar contracts in the state’s report on its renewable portfolio standard policy, solar resources are not as strong in the Deep South due to fewer sunny days, and as such $36/MWh is a low price for the region.
On Twitter, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols described the contracts as a “great deal for ratepayers”.
The projects are being awarded under Georgia Power’s Renewable Energy Development Initiative (REDI). Georgia Power plans to hold another auction in 2019 for another 525 MW of projects, each at least 3 MW in capacity. While the two auctions are open to multiple renewable energy sources, there is a limit to procure only 300 MW of wind out of a total of 1.05 GW. Additionally contracts must not exceed Georgia Power’s calculation of long-term avoided costs.
Such stipulations were clearly not needed in the 2017 auction, given that solar beat out other resources to take nearly all of the 525 MW that was available. In addition to the utility-scale solicitation, Georgia Power also has plans to procure 100 MW of distributed generation projects through REDI, however it is unclear how these projects will be able to come in under avoided cost given the much higher per-MWh cost of distributed solar.