From virtually unheard of five years ago, community solar farms are becoming one of the most dominant forms of solar power in the US. A new report from GTM Research, U.S. Community Solar Outlook 2017, anticipated that the US will install 410 megawatts of community solar farms in 2017, up from 218 MWs in 2016.
While the near doubling of community solar farms between last year and this year is huge, the rate of growth between 2016 and 2015 was larger—more than quadruple, according to GTM’s figures. In 2015, the US installed 52 megawatts of community solar power, which was then a record for the industry, as well. With 3 gigawatts of such projects in the pipeline, this mercurial growth will continue at least through 2019, when the US is expected to install 500 MWs of community solar farms annually to meet demand.
“Looking ahead, the community solar market will be defined by utilities scaling up pilot programs beyond a single sub-1-megawatt project, and the regulatory driven boom-and-bust cycles of third-party-led state markets,” said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research’s director of U.S. solar research and lead author of the report.
Community solar power is proving popular because it can offer economies of scale to consumers, bringing down the cost of investing in solar and it can help those without the ability to install solar on their homes or businesses to benefit from investing in solar power. At the same time, utilities can help choose where a community solar farm is installed, locating it near transmission lines that can take the energy and at sites that will produce the most energy. In fact, reports are already anticipating that by 2020 half of the US’s distributed solar resources could come from such solar farms.
In 2016 the majority of community solar projects were brought online in the second half of the year, according to GTM. The analytics firm said that the industry experienced some market delays, largely in states with third-party-led projects marketed by developers. The majority of new community solar farms that came online last year were from utilities that had voluntary community solar programs. “There are now 150 such programs in place or in development,” GTM said.Tweet