Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Solar Exceeds 1,000 Megawatts In PJM: Lancaster County, PA Red Hot Solar Spot

Many would have bet that this day would never come or come no sooner than 20 years from now.  But it is here.

The PJM power pool now has more than 1,000 megawatts of solar generation operating or about 25% of America's solar capacity.  It is an astonishing amount.  See the May 15th announcement on the PJM home page at  PJM is the largest wholesale power pool and power market in the world, extending across 13 states, from Illinois to New Jersey.

PJM reports that solar capacity expanded an astonishing 139% in 2011, after growing more than 100% in 2010.  That means approximately 550 megawatts of solar was added in PJM just in 2011.

Interestingly, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is a red hot solar spot on the PJM county map and among the leading counties in the entire PJM.  It has more than 50 megawatts of solar capacity operating.

The 1,000 megawatts of solar is big enough to impact pricing in PJM and to affect future transmission planning.  One thousand megawatts of solar lowered the market clearing price in many parts of PJM during many hours, especially expensive peak periods.  Undoubtedly, the solar expansion is saving all electricity consumers money.

The solar expansion will also impact future transmission needs and expenses. Importantly, a great deal of the 1,000 megawatts of solar has been built in parts of PJM where transmission constraints are most severe.  Local generation built in such areas may lessen or postpone the need for some major new transmission investments.

The solar is real and in our PJM home.  Most importantly, it has just begun and it will sweepingly change power markets and electricity service.  Solar is a revolution.


  1. Yes, the 1,000 MW milestone is an extraordinary achievement – thanks, in part, to Mr. Hanger’s former leadership at the PADEP. As Mr. Hanger notes, the aggregate solar capacity is now large enough to begin to favorably impact end user electricity costs for all of us, across the grid. Our society is on the verge of reaping the economic benefits of the material investment we have made in solar.

    But the achievement belays the reality that the two largest new-build solar markets in the PJM territories are in free fall. Both of these markets are likely to contract to a small fraction of their 2011 peaks, by 2013. The viability of the long term SREC programs in both PA and NJ have been undermined by the exceptionally rapid growth of solar in those two states. We are in an economically unhealthy boom-bust cycle.

    Bills pending in both the PA and NJ legislative bodies can cost-efficiently redress the boom-bust cycle, but political obstacles exist in both states – and particularly in PA. If our solar success story is to continue in PA and NJ, we need a wider base engagement now, in both Harrisburg and Trenton.

    Andrew Kleeman
    SVP Mercury Solar
    MSEIA Board
    SEIA Board (Alt.)

    1. Good comment and I appreciate the kind words. Electricity prices are pretty high in NJ. When do you think solar will be at grid parity in NJ?