Even as the debate over whether or not to extend tax incentives for solar power in the U.S. the country’s solar industry is preparing for its biggest quarter—ever. The third-quarter of 2015 is big, too, with the U.S. installing 1,361 megawatts of new solar photovoltaics across the country. But the fourth quarter could see more than 3,000 megawatts of new solar power coming online.
If the predictions are correct, that would mean the U.S. could install roughly 1,000 more megawatts in the fourth quarter than it ever has before. The previous high mark was the fourth quarter of 2014 when 2,208 megawatts of solar power was installed. The figures come from the latest GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association’s U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, Q3 2015, the quarterly and yearly report that tracks the progress of the solar industry across all sectors—residential, commercial and utility.
“This past quarter marked the calm before the storm,” said GTM Research Senior Solar Analyst Cory Honeyman. “The one-gigawatt mark for quarterly capacity additions will serve as a distant floor as project developers ramp up installations in the next five quarters before the planned step down of the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC).”
Looking ahead the report projects that the U.S. will install roughly 7,400 megawatts of solar in 2015. That’s 19 percent more than the 6,201 megawatts of photovoltaics installed in 2014. The utility-scale sector led the industry, accounting for 42 percent of all installations. However, the residential sector wasn’t too far behind, installing 41 percent of the solar power in the quarter—a year-over-year growth of 69 percent.
The new report also comes as Congress could end its session—without extending the ITC for solar power, which has helped spur growth in the industry (In fact, SEIA has set up a campaign to send your legislators a note asking them to extend the ITC. You can take action here: http://www.seia.org/solarisnow). When the ITC is reduced under current plans the residential solar ITC of 30 percent will drop to zero and the ITC for commercial solar will drop from 30 percent to 10 percent. That’s set to happen on Dec. 31, 2016. If the drastic cuts happen it could mean thousands or even tens of thousands of jobs lost across the country as the industry goes through a temporary stagnation.
“Year after year, we’re seeing the demand for solar energy in America skyrocket, and the benefits that brings to both our nation’s economy and environment are staggering,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO. “As we gear up for what’s expected to be an unprecedented year for our industry, and nation, this report reveals just how important it is to maintain smart, effective, forward-looking public policies, like the ITC.”
Right now, however, things are looking much better for the industry. The report found that it’s the eighth consecutive quarter in which the U.S. has installed more than a gigawatt (1,000 megawatts) of PV capacity.
If trends continue as expected, GTM and SEIA anticipated that by the end of 2016 the U.S. will have 41,000 megawatts of installed solar power. That’s more than double the 18,300 megawatts of solar power installed in the U.S. at the end of 2014.Tweet