September 11, 2017 Read More →

Record 2Q Solar Growth in U.S.


The U.S. installed almost 2.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaics in the second quarter of 2017, an increase of 8 percent year-on-year, according to a new report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Breaking the figures down, a total of 2,387 megawatts (MW) were installed in the second quarter with total installed capacity in the U.S. hitting 47.1 GW, enough to power just over nine million homes.

Looking forward, the U.S. Solar Market Insight report forecast that this year would see the solar industry add 12.4 GW of new capacity, down from GTM Research’s prior forecast of 12.6 GW.

“Last year, solar companies added jobs 17 times faster than the rest of the economy and increased our GDP by billions of dollars,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the SEIA. “We are going to continue to fight for policies that allow the industry to continue this phenomenal growth.”

More: Nearly 2.4 gigawatts of solar installed in the US during second quarter of 2017

Solar Energy Industries Association (press release):

The U.S. solar market continued its years-long expansion in the second quarter of 2017 as the industry installed 2,387 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV), the largest total in a second quarter to date. This tops Q1’s total and represents an 8 percent year-over-year gain, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said in the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report.

All three U.S. solar market segments – commercial, residential and utility-scale – experienced quarter-over-quarter growth in Q2. The U.S. installed 2,044 MW of capacity in Q1. The non-residential and utility-scale market segments also posted year-over-year growth.

The non-residential market grew a robust 31 percent year-over-year, with 437 MW installed. That was driven in large part by favorable time-of-use rates in California, expiring incentives in Massachusetts, and a record-breaking quarter in New York, where a number of remote, net metered projects were completed.

Joining those states in the top 10 for additions in Q2 were long-time solar leaders such as Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina, as well as surprises like Minnesota and Mississippi, which had the 5th and 9th largest markets in the quarter, respectively. Texas, which is projected to be the second largest state solar market over the next five years, had its strongest quarter ever, adding 378 MW in Q2, placing it 2nd among states this quarter.

The utility-scale segment represented 58 percent of the PV capacity installed in the quarter. In fact, Q2 marked the seventh straight quarter in which the U.S. added more than a gigawatt (GW) of utility-scale solar.

More: U.S. Solar Market Adds 2.4 GW in Q2, Largest Second Quarter Ever

GreenTech Media:

The utility-scale segment “continues to serve as the bedrock of the U.S. solar market,” according to the report. A total of 1.4 gigawatts (dc) of utility PV projects came on-line in the second quarter of 2017, accounting for 58 percent of all PV capacity installed during the three-month period. Q2 represents the seventh consecutive quarter in which utility PV added more than 1 gigawatt of new capacity.

The threat of losing the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was a big part of the reason why 2016 was such a strong year for U.S. solar. Developers rushed to take advantage of the incentive before it was scheduled to expire, which caused the utility-scale solar market to more than double. Today, the market is recalibrating.

GTM Research expects the overall U.S. solar market to shrink year-over-year in 2017 and 2018 before rebounding in 2019, due in large part to trends in utility PV procurement. With the extension of the ITC and project spillover from 2016, GTM Research continues to forecast a strong 8.1 gigawatts (dc) of utility-scale solar PV will be deployed in 2017. The market is expected to take a more noticeable downturn next year, with 6.5 gigawatts (dc) deployed for in 2018.

But growth won’t lag for long. The combination of competitive pricing, new procurement plans and developers looking again to benefit from the 30 percent ITC before the incentive steps-down, prompted GTM Research increase its 2019 forecast for utility-scale PV by 14 percent to 9.0 gigawatts (dc). The return to growth in 2019 will come from the expansion of new state markets, and as both distributed and utility solar reach tipping points in terms of economic attractiveness.

More than 75 percent of the current utility-scale pipeline is slated to come from voluntary procurement — or projects driven by cost-competitiveness with natural gas alternatives rather than renewable energy mandates. For residential PV, more than 30 states are forecast to have surpassed grid parity by 2019, based on current rate structures.

U.S. solar installers will still have to innovate around customer acquisition and push into new markets in order to see more record-breaking growth. The industry will also have to hope for low or no tariffs in the Suniva/SolarWorld Section 201 trade case. If the International Trade Commission approves a minimum price of 78 cents per watt on modules, GTM Research estimates it could reduce U.S. solar demand by 50 percent cumulatively over the next five years.

Without tariffs, total installed U.S. solar PV capacity is expected to nearly triple over the next five years. By 2022, more than 16 gigawatts of solar PV capacity will be installed annually. Residential solar stands to make up a significant portion of the overall market, if installers can overcome the business challenges they face today.

More: US Residential Solar Market Forecast to Decline for the First Time

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