The tariffs on imported solar panels imposed by President Donald Trump (R) had a big impact on the solar industry in the latest quarter, as overall solar installations fell during the quarter. That’s according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report for Q3 of 2018, which found that the US installed 1.7 gigawatts (GWs) of solar PV in the quarter, a 15 percent compared to the same quarter in 2017 and a 20 percent decrease from the previous quarter.
The quarterly report from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables (formerly GTM Research) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) found that the Section 201 solar tariffs imposed by Trump impacted the utility scale sector of the solar industry the most. It noted that for the first time since 2015 that new utility-scale solar installations in the quarter fell below 1 gigawatt to 678 megawatts. It’s the first quarter since 2015 that utility-scale solar installations fell so low.
“If not for the tariffs, the U.S. solar market would undoubtedly look better today than it does now,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “However, as this report shows, this is a resilient industry that cannot be kept down for long. With smart policies in place, the potential for the solar industry is hard to overstate.”
Indeed, despite the chaos the tariffs created, the solar industry is expecting a much bigger fourth quarter.
“Developers originally planning to bring projects online in Q3 2018 were forced to push out completion dates to Q4 2018 or Q1 2019 due to uncertainty around tariffs,” said Colin Smith, Senior Analyst at Wood Mackenzie. “We did, however, see utility PV procurement outpace installations fourfold in Q3, showing that despite the tariffs causing project delays, there is substantial growth ahead for the U.S. utility PV sector.”
The report anticipated that 3.5 GWs of utility solar power will come online in the fourth quarter. That would make it the largest quarter for utility-scale installations since since the fourth quarter of 2016.
The other segments of the solar market were less impacted by the tariffs. The residential market, which had contracted 15 percent in 2017, showed signs of stabilization as installations reached 581 MWs of new solar power, up 1.2 percent over the previous quarter and 11 percent over the previous year’s quarter.
“Though growth has been minimal, installation numbers over the first three quarters of the year show promising signs that the slowdown from national installers has largely abated, even as segmentwide customer-acquisition challenges remain,” the report stated about the residential solar segment.
The commercial segment of the solar industry also saw modest gains over the previous quarter, 492 megawatts of new projects installed. That’s a 6 percent increase over the previous quarter. The report attributed the quarterly growth to growth in California, New York and Minnesota’s community solar build out. Still, the commercial segment is down 6 percent on a year over year basis.
Despite the stalled quarter, SEIA and Wood Mackenzie anticipate that the US will see 11.1 GWs of new solar power installations to come online by the end of the year and could see slightly more, up to 11.2 GWs of new solar, essentially the same amount installed as in 2017. The report also anticipated that by 2023, the US will install 14 GWs of new solar on an annual basis. That will allow total US solar capacity to more than double over the next five years.Tweet