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In this week’s Solar News Roundup, the U.S. utility solar pipeline hits a new high watermark, and California boosts battery incentives for homes vulnerable to wildfire-caused power outages.

U.S. utility solar pipeline hits an all-time high of 37.9 GW

In the first half of 2019, the pipeline of announced utility-scale PV projects added 11.2 gigawatts (GW), ballooning the current pipeline to a historic high of 37.9 GW. A main driver of this pipeline growth is corporate solar procurements – according to the cited report (from SEIA and Wood Mackenzie), off-site corporate procurements represent 17 percent of new utility-scale capacity announced this year so far.

“As more companies commit to 100 percent renewable power, corporate off-site procurement is expected to drive more than 20 percent of new utility-scale capacity additions from 2019 through 2024,” said Colin Smith, senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie. “Cities, states and utilities are already following through on their renewable energy and zero-carbon commitments. We’re starting to see procurement occur and expect even more RPS-driven procurement in the near- to mid-term.”

Total U.S. solar PV capacity is expected to more than double over the next five years, reaching 17.6 GW of annual installations by 2021.

California passes the first-ever subsidy for energy storage in fire risk areas

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently approved changes to the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) that adds a $100 million carve-out specifically meant for vulnerable households in “high fire threat districts”. The subsidy ends up at $1 per watt, which offsets 98 percent of a typical Tesla Powerwall residential installation. 

The subsidy is meant to help property owners at risk of harm in the event of a grid power outage, either directly due to wildfire or as a result of a planned shutdown as part of California’s wildfire prevention measures. Importantly, the subsidy is only for “SGIP critical resiliency needs” customers, which likely will include people who meet the low-income/disadvantaged criteria or are customers with a medical condition that could become life-threatening if electricity is shut off.