Since at least 2010 the US solar market has experienced record growth, with each successive year seeing more installations than the year before. But nothing like the 14,626 megawatts (MWs) of new solar installed last year was witnessed before.
That’s almost double, or 95 percent more than, the 7.5 gigawatts (GWs) installed in 2015. In fact, the only year the solar market actually installed more than double what it had the year before was in 2011, when it installed 1.9 GWs, more than double the 851 MWs it installed in 2010. With the latest figures, the US now has more than 40 GWs of solar power in operation. These facts are coming from a preview of the upcoming U.S. Solar Market Insight Report issued by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
The research found that solar power was the number one source of new electric generating capacity in the US on an annual basis, a first for the technology. SEIA said solar accounted for 39 percent of the US’s new electric capacity additions in 2016.
“What these numbers tell you is that the solar industry is a force to be reckoned with,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Solar's economically-winning hand is generating strong growth across all market segments nationwide, leading to more than 260,000 Americans now employed in solar.”
The fourth quarter was already expected to be the largest single quarter yet for solar power in the US. By the third quarter of the year—the previous record holder for the industry with 4.1 gigawatts of new solar—the US had already installed more than 8 gigawatts of solar, eclipsing 2015’s record. At that time the quarterly insight report anticipated that in the forth quarter the utility-scale solar industry alone would install 4.8 gigawatts of new solar power.
“While U.S. solar grew across all segments, what stands out is the double digit gigawatt boom in utility-scale solar, primarily due to solar's cost competitiveness with natural gas alternatives." The preliminary results shows that utility-scale solar grew on a year over year basis by 145 percent.
The growth was across the US. "In a banner year for US solar, a record 22 states each added more than 100 megawatts," said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research's associate director of US solar research.
While utility-scale solar saw soaring growth, the report noted that both residential and commercial-scale solar power also saw record growth. However, commercial-scale solar power beat residential solar growth for the first time since 2011, thanks to the spread of community solar and net-metering changes.
Full results of the insight report are slated for release on March 9.Tweet