US solar employment forecast to rise 7% in 2019; WElink signs Europe’s largest private PPA

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US solar employment set to rebound after 2018 dip

US solar industry employment is forecast to rise by 7% this year to over 259,000 jobs, due to a strong pipeline of projects, the Solar Foundation said in its latest National Solar Jobs Census.

Solar sector employment fell by 3.2% in 2018 to 242,343 workers, an annual decline of around 8,000 jobs, the census said.

The Section 201 Trade Case brought against imported solar modules in 2017 created pricing uncertainty and delayed projects into 2018. Uncertainty eased after the Trump administration implemented import tariffs in January 2018, but the project delays dented installations in 2018 and led to staff cuts. In some states with established solar markets, state government policy and regional economic challenges also lead to job declines, the report said.

   Forecast US employment in 2019 by sector

                             (Click image to enlarge)

Source: The Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census.

In California, which hosts 40% of US solar capacity, employment plummeted by 9,576 in 2018 while Massachusetts shed 1,320 positions, the census said. North Carolina, Arizona, Maryland, New Jersey, Georgia and Hawaii also saw significant reductions.

Falling solar costs have widened the spread of solar development and 29 states saw solar job growth in 2018.

Florida added 1,769 jobs, Illinois created 1,308, while Texas New York, Ohio and Washington also saw strong employment growth.

Oregon to host US' largest wind-solar-storage plant

Portland General Electric (PGE) and NextEra Energy Resources have agreed to build the U.S.' largest 'hybrid' wind-solar-storage project in Oregon.

The Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility will include 300 MW of wind capacity, 50 MW of PV solar and 30 MW of battery storage, the companies announced February 13.

The facility will incorporate 120 GE Renewable Energy wind turbines. The solar plant will be one of the largest in Oregon and the battery plant will be one of the largest in the U.S.

The wind component of the facility is expected online by December 2020 and will qualify for 100% of the federal production tax credit (PTC). The solar and battery plants are scheduled to be built in 2021 and will qualify for the federal investment tax credit (ITC).

PGE will own 100 MW of the wind project and NextEra Energy Resources will own the balance of the project and sell its output to PGE under 30-year power purchase agreements.

The new facility will increase PGE's contracted wind capacity to over 1 GW.

"We're moving aggressively to integrate smart grid technologies and renewable energy," Maria Pope, PGE president and CEO, said.

"Wheatridge will be a model for integrating renewable generation and storage to cost-effectively reduce emissions while maintaining a reliable grid," Pope said.

NextEra Energy Resources acquired the Wheatridge wind project from Swaggart Wind Power in 2017. NextEra and PGE then expanded the project scope to include solar generation and battery storage.

WElink, Audax sign Europe's largest private solar PPA

Solar investment group WElink has signed a 708 MW solar power purchase agreement (PPA) in Iberia with power supplier Audax Renovables, the largest ever private solar PPA signed in Europe, Audax announced February 8.

"The agreement will cover a large part of the energy that Audax needs for his customers in Portuguese market, where its clients will receive 100% renewable energy," Audax said.

The 20-year contract will source energy from WElink's 219 MW Solara4 and 46 MW Ourika plants in Portugal, and other new projects to be developed by the group in Spain and Portugal.

The Solara4 plant is currently under construction in the village of Alcoutim in south-east Portugal. Due online by mid-2019, Solara4 will be the largest unsubsidized solar power plant in Europe backed by a private PPA.

Completed in summer of 2018, the Ourika solar power plant was the first unsubsidized plant operating in Iberia.

WElink has a 442 MWp pipeline of projects planned for construction and completion in 2019, the company said in November.

                       Global corporate renewable PPA volumes

Source: BloombergNEF (BNEF) 

Audax supplies customers in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Poland, Netherlands and France.

In March 2018, the company signed a 660 MW solar PPA with Cox Energy.

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