Residential Market Drives Solar Industry in First Quarter
In the first quarter of 2015 the U.S. solar industry installed 1.3 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PVs), according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s quarterly U.S. Solar Market Insight Report. That’s slightly less than the 1.36 gigawatts installed in the first quarter of last year, but still the second-best 1st quarter for the industry thus far. It was also 51 percent of all new electric generation installed in the U.S. in the quarter—heck residential solar alone accounted for more than the amount of natural gas generation that came online in the quarter!
That’s the big story, the growth in residential solar. Last year’s first quarter saw 232 megawatts of residential solar installed, this year’s first quarter market saw a gigantic increase in residential solar installations to 437 megawatts—a 76 percent jump. The report stated that the average cost for a residential solar system is now $3.48 per watt which is 10 percent lower during last year’s first quarter. In all 66,440 individual solar systems came online in the quarter, which means there are now about 700,000 rooftop solar systems online in the country.
“Q1 2015 provided a clear glimpse into the future role that the residential sector will play as a primary driver of not only solar market growth, but the overall electricity generation mix,” Said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “We expect more than three million residential solar installations over the next five years, marked by a broader trend toward customer engagement in energy usage, generation and management.”
While residential solar continues to become a larger part of the industry, the industry is still led by the utility-scale side, which saw 644 new megawatts of utility-scale solar power come online. That’s equal to 49 percent of the new solar panels that were added. But it’s less than the 873 megawatts of utility-scale solar that came online in the first quarter of 2014.
Commercial solar stayed relatively the same at 225 megawatts installed, the same as last year’s figures. The report said that segment of the market was impacted by seasonality, including one of the worst winters in the Northeastern U.S.
“Solar continues to be the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “By 2016, the U.S. will be generating enough clean solar energy to power 8 million homes. That means solar will offset 45 million metric tons of damaging carbon emissions.”
The report anticipated that 2015 will be another record year for solar power and will see a total of 7.9 gigawatts of new solar electric generation come online. While the skies look sunny for solar now it still faces the cloud of sunsetting incentives, most importantly the Investment Tax Credit, which is set to expire for residential and be reduced for commercial at the end of 2016.
“Today’s report reveals just how important establishing and maintaining effective, forward-looking public policies, like the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), are to America,” Resch contended.
The report also noted that the utility-scale market is gearing up for the sunset of the credit. It found that 25 project developers already have project pipelines with 100 megawatts of projects in the pipeline. And it anticipated more activity as the sunset of the credit approaches.Tweet