But that was then and this is now, and with the last year several companies have left the solar industry, reduced their workforce, or gone bankrupt. SolarCity has been absorbed by another of Elon Musk’s ventures Tesla. Now the company has lowered it’s expectations for growth and has refocused its attention toward providing premium service offering infinity warranties on their products.
Last year according to their 10k filings, the three largest solar companies in the United States combined lost over $1 billion. The largest company, SolarCity, had revenues of $730 million but lost $820 million. In second, Sunrun with revenues of $454 million still lost $303 million, Finally Vivint Solar earned $135 million but still hemorrhaged $242 million, proportionally the largest losses of any of the three. What is worse, Sunrun is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding “whether the company adequately disclosed how many customers had canceled contracts.” The SEC is also looking at SolarCity.
On March 11, utility-scale solar generation in the territory of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) accounted for almost 40% of net grid power produced during the hours of 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This is the first time CAISO has achieved these levels, reflecting an almost 50% growth in utility-scale solar photovoltaic installed capacity in 2016. The large and growing amount of solar generation has occasionally driven power prices on the CAISO power exchange during late winter and early spring daylight hours to very low, and sometimes negative, prices. However, consumers in California continue to pay average retail electricity prices that are among the highest in the nation.
Altogether, these and other merchant-transmission projects could cost upward of $17 billion, plus at least a further $20 billion in wind, solar and hydro projects to fill these lines. There are no federal subsidies available for building transmission lines, though wind farm developers are eligible to tap a U.S. tax credit for building new production.