If the US solar industry simply maintains its 2012 rate of solar installations for 2013 to 2015, the USA will have approximately 17,700 megawatts of solar by the end of 2015. That would represent more than 1.7% of US installed capacity, generate about the same amount of electricity as five 600 megawatt nuclear plants, and produce annually the amount of electricity consumed by 2.9 million homes. Here's the math:
The US is likely to see 3,300 megawatts of solar installed this year, bringing total solar capacity to 7,700 megawatts by the end of 2012. Simply maintaining for 3 more years installation of 3,300 megawatts of solar would add another 9,900 megawtts from 2012 to 2015 and would bring total solar installations to 17,700 megawatts. Any growth in the amounts annually installed would push total solar capacity in the USA to about 20,000 megawatts in 3 years.
While solar produces little during the night (some concentrated solar thermal plants produce after the sun goes down)17,700 megawatts of solar would produce substantial electricity during the peak hours and especially during the 500 hottest hours of the year. In competitive wholesale markets, during the very hottest hours, peak prices can go to the equivalent of $1 or $3 per kilowatt-hour or even higher.
The addition of 17,700 megawatts of solar power will reduce peak power prices, especially during the 500 hottest and most expensive hours, saving consumers large amounts by creating lower market clearing prices that all consumers pay, whether or not they use solar power directly. Indeed, in Germany, where the world's greatest concentration of solar exists, peak power prices have been cut by as much as 40% as a result of solar generation.
As in Germany and Italy, solar is going to reshape power generation economics in many markets in the USA within 5 years. Yet, when it does, more than a few will be just shocked.