Solar power continues to grow rapidly in the US as the country saw more than 2 gigawatts of solar power come online in the quarter, reaching an accumulative 49.3 GWs of installed solar power. It’s essentially a doubling of the amount of solar power installed in the US since the end of 2015, when the country had 25 GWs of solar installed.
It’s also the eighth consecutive quarter when new solar power surpassed 2 GWs of installations, according to the latest quarterly Solar Market Insight Report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The report found that 2,031 megawatts of solar power came online in the country in the last quarter.
That’s down 51 percent from the third quarter of 2016 when 4.1 gigawatts of solar power was installed. However, the steep drop-off was expected. Prior to the extension of the Investment Tax Credit in December 2015, developers were rushing to start and complete projects, particularly utility-scale solar projects that benefitted the most from the 30 percent ITC. When it was extended, developers didn’t have to rush to finish projects.
Other factors were in play as well. Solar panel prices rose as the global supply of solar panels tightened. The Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress have sought policies that could limit the growth of solar and renewable energy as well. Those include the tax proposals from both houses of Congress and the tariffs that Trump could impose on imported solar panels, raising prices further.
“The solar industry is a resilient bunch, but this quarter shows us what happens when policy uncertainty becomes a disruptive factor: prices rise, supplies shift and the market reacts accordingly,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “We urge President Trump to reject tariffs and allow solar to continue its amazing growth for the US economy, national security and American families in all 50 states.”
The insight report also looked at the what the impact of all this will be on the full-year of 2017, anticipating that the amount of solar power installed in the year will be 22 percent lower than for the full-year of 2016. It forecast that for the full-year of 2017 the US will see 11.8 GWs of new solar come online, compared to 16 GWs of solar power installed in 2016. That’s down from the 12.4 GWs previously projected.
Delving into the market segments also shows how the US solar market is evolving. Residential and utility-scale solar saw declines (even though utility-scale projects still accounted for 51 percent of overall installations), but commercial-scale solar, including community solar saw a 22 percent increase in installations.
"The year 2017 has been unconventional for solar in the sense that utility and residential PV, which have historically been the market’s major growth segments, are actually expected to decline in 2017,” said GTM Research Solar Analyst Austin Perea. “For utility PV this is largely a function of comparing the record-breaking ITC demand-pull in effect of 2016 to more modest build-out in 2017, while significant customer acquisition issues remain a challenge for residential solar. Conversely, non-residential solar, the smallest and most historically beleaguered sector, is expected to grow in 2017 in large part due to robust community solar build-out and regulatory demand pull-in across major state markets."
Indeed, community solar power is expected to grow by more than 50 percent on a year-over-year basis. That expansion comes as residential solar flagged. The report attributed that change to larger solar installers switching strategies from growth-driven sales to more profitable sales.Tweet