In the first quarter of 2017 the US installed a total of 2,044 megawatts of solar power as the cost of solar power fell below $1 a watt for the first time. That’s according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association SEIA, which found growth was driven primarily by utility-scale sized installations.
“Utility solar is on the cusp of another boom in procurement,” said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research’s associate director of US solar. “The majority of utility solicitations are focused on maximizing the number of projects that can come online with a 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit in 2019, or later by leveraging commence construction rules.”
The first quarter was the sixth straight quarter that saw more than two gigawatts of newly installed solar photovoltaics (PVs). The majority of solar power installed in the quarter, over 1 gigawatt was utility-scale PV.
The residential solar market shrunk 17 percent to half a gigawatt of new solar power installed in the quarter. California consisted of 35 percent of the market, its smallest share in recent years. Despite that it remained the largest residential state market.
The commercial and industrial market, which includes business-scale solar and community solar power. Deployments in community solar grew more than 30 percent in the quarter, led by Minnesota.
The report anticipated that the residential and non-residential PV markets will experience year-over-year growth, even though the quarterly results were lower than in last year’s first quarter.
The report also observed that solar continues to expand into new markets, including Idaho and Indiana. Other state markets like Utah, Texas and South Carolina, also continued to grow.
“The solar market clearly remains on a strong upward trajectory,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Solar is delivering more clean energy, adding jobs 17 times faster than the U.S. economy and creating tens of billions of dollars in investment. With its cost-competitiveness, we know solar will continue to play a growing role in America’s energy portfolio.”
Looking forward, GTM Research anticipated that 12.6 gigawatts of solar power will come online this year. That’s 10 percent less than in 2016, when installers and developers were scrambling to meet previous deadlines under the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which was extended. In the coming years the amount of installed PV capacity is expected to nearly triple over the next five years. By 2022 the insight report projected the US will install 18 gigawatts of PV on an annual basis.
One thing that could impact the solar industry in the US is the trade case initiated by the bankrupt Suniva and recently joined by SolarWorld. The insight report noted that Suniva’s petition could raise system costs between 13 and 35 percent to a minimum module price of 78 cents per watt.Tweet