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A eulogy for concentrating solar and disruption in the utility sector

Bloomberg Businessweek takes a look at the woes of concentrating solar technology as declining solar PV prices have eroded the hopes for major companies like Brightsource of ever going public. The article is more or less a eulogy for the industry which is struggling to score large scale utility contracts at a time when every solar PV farm that gets built adds engineering expertise and lessons to developers so that efficiency improves and cost declines.

The article takes a general look at how solar is impact the energy sector, including distributed generation and includes an interesting fact:

Pinnacle West Capital (PNW), whose Arizona Public Service is Arizona’s largest utility, recently reported quarterly electricity sales had dropped 1.3 percent from a year earlier, in part due to distributed generation. To head off the threat of rooftop solar, utilities in at least five states have asked regulators to begin taxing rooftop solar installation or tacking on fees to connect to the regular grid in order to recoup lost revenue.

The fight in Arizona will be one of many but it’s interesting that we’re seeing the first actual data showing the utilities have a problem as revenue will decline as a result of rooftop solar. Rooftop solar will only get cheaper and installations should accelerate. Where that will ultimately leave utilities is anyone’s guess but it’s becoming increasingly evident that their business models will have to change.