For the third year in a row, the U.S. solar industry installed double-digit gigawatts (GW) of solar PV capacity, with 10.6 GW coming online in 2018, according to the latest statistics from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
It’s a 2 percent decrease from 2017 but forecasts indicate the market rebounding in the years ahead, said the groups. SEIA’s president and CEO, Abby Hopper said the 2 percent decrease was due to “growing pains” which can be attributed to solar tariffs.
“The total amount of solar installed in America is on track to more than double in the next five years, proving solar’s resiliency and its economic strength. It’s clear, this next decade is going to be one of significant growth,” she added.
2019 looking good, especially Texas and Florida
Total installed PV capacity in the U.S. is expected to rise by 14 percent in 2019 with annual installations reaching 15.8 GW in 2021. In addition to a market outlook, the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie released a report that details how the industry performed in 2018 in each segment.
In 2018, non-residential PV saw an annual decline of eight percent due to policy transitions in major markets. Utility-scale solar underwent a seven percent contraction in 2018, largely related to Section 201 tariffs.
Yet, while annual growth fell in both the non-residential and utility-scale solar sectors, residential solar growth stabilized in 2018 after the previous year’s contraction. The U.S. residential solar market has now seen five consecutive quarters of modest growth, and the fourth quarter of 2018 was the largest quarter for residential solar in two years. Nearly 315,000 households added solar in 2018.
Texas and Florida, two states with generally low solar penetration, stood out in 2018, adding more capacity than some of the highest penetration states. These emerging solar markets are poised to become the engines of growth for residential solar in the U.S.
Solar was 29 percent of new electricity capacity in 2019
In total, solar PV accounted for 29 percent of new electricity generating capacity additions in 2018, slightly less than in 2017 due to a surge in new natural gas plants. However, in 2018, 13.2 GW of utility-scale solar power purchase agreements were signed, pushing the contracted project pipeline to its highest point in the history of U.S. solar.
Wood Mackenzie also increased its five-year forecast for utility PV by 2.3 GW since Q4 2018. This was the result of a large volume of project announcements, the inclusion of more solar in long-term utility resource planning and an increase in project development driven by renewable portfolio standards and growing corporate interest.