Satellite data shows big solar installation delays in Texas

In its January 2022 report, ERCOT, the grid operator in Texas, lists 46 solar projects totaling 9.8 GW slated for completion in 2022, with 19 of those with expected completions in H1 2022. New data from kayrros shows that only 9 of those projects, 1.4 GW, have been completed so far. Of the 37 remaining projects, Kayrros forecasts nine of those, representing 31% of of the annual total or 3 GW, to be delayed by at least six months past the date listed in the ERCOT filing.

The data comes from climate tech company Kayrros’ Solar Tracker, a tool capable of measuring the progress of solar power projects. Using the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellites, geo-location and machine-learning algorithms, they can collect data, in near real-time, on whether a project is complete, ongoing, on hold or not started. They can also use the data to forecast when a project will complete and state how much capacity is installed.

In total, 37% of announced capacity appears to be currently under construction. These projects have continued to install panels amid market difficulties, but some at a slower rate. Coupled with the nine completed projects, 68% of capacity listed in the January 2022 ERCOT filing is moving forward. The remaining 33% of capacity is at risk — there are 12 projects accounting for 3.2 GW that have either not started or have started construction but stopped. The owners of these projects are likely taking a wait-and-see approach to recent market challenges.

“There are vast implications for solar farm completion where asset managers, traders and other market participants lack key information. Challenges at every step of the value chain create the possibility of delay or cancellation for projects across the country, with huge implications for electricity and natural gas prices and of course for the revenues and valuation of market players,” said Mark Taylor, VP of energy transition at Kayros.

Completed projects

The nine completed projects amount to 1.4 MW of added capacity; 53% of announced capacity appears to be going ahead. But Kayrros’ data suggests that, while projects continue installing panels amid market difficulties, they are doing so at a slower rate.

Danish wind and solar giant Orsted’s Old300 project was scheduled for completion in February 2022. In early April, Kayrros noticed construction works were still ongoing, and at a slower installation rate than in previous months. On April 29 on Orsted’s Q1 earnings call, CEO Mads Nipper confirmed the delay and that the company has pushed the date to 2023, blaming challenges in the solar panel supply chain relating to the forced labor allegations in China and potential US tariffs on Chinese goods.

On hold projects

7 projects amounting to 2 GW are either not started or have had construction stopped. For example, EDF’s 610-MW Space City solar project is still scheduled for completion at the end of December 2022. Kayrros’ data shows no construction activity. Based on observed installation rates elsewhere, there is not enough time to install the panels to meet the target deadline – this project will be late and is expected to be completed in 2023.

No less concerning are the projects that started and suddenly stopped. The 350-MW Fighting Jays project, for instance, was due to be finished in July 2022, as of the January 2022 ERCOT filing. By then, while construction had stopped (indicating completion), Kayrros’ analysis shows that the farm remains 100-MW short of its own stated target.

This project is owned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, which in 2021 raised 800 million euros for its first ‘energy transition fund’: funds with the express purpose of bringing renewable energy capacity online. This fund is one of several like it that raised more than $20 billion last year. If such funds struggle in the US market, it seems likely they will move to other, more hospitable markets to deploy capital.

News item from Kayrros

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