GTM: US solar sees record-breaking Q3 2016, with Q4 to do even better

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Annual US solar PV installations, Q1 2010-Q3 2016. Source: GTM Research / SEIA US Solar Market Insight Report

Shattering all previous quarterly results, a whopping 4,143MW of solar PV were installed in Q3 2016, at a rate of one megawatt every 32 minutes, according to new analysis by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Increasing 99% over the previous quarter and 191% year-over-year, Q3 2016 marks the largest quarter ever for the US solar industry.

Utility-scale

The main driver for this growth can be attributed to an “unprecedented rate of project completion” in the utility-scale segment. The report cites that utility-scale accounted for 77% of all solar PV installed in Q3.

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“Coming off our largest quarter ever and with an extremely impressive pipeline ahead, it’s safe to say the state of the solar industry here in America is strong,” said Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s interim president. “The solar market now enjoys an economically-winning hand that pays off both financially and environmentally, and American taxpayers have noticed. With a 90% favourability rating and 209,000 plus jobs, the US solar industry has proven that when you combine smart policies with smart 21st century technology, consumers and businesses both benefit.”

Whilst the third quarter may have broken records, the momentum is set to continue with even better figures in store for Q4. GTM Research anticipates that 4.8GW of utility PV projects will come online in the last quarter of the year; even more than was installed across the entire segment in all of 2015.

“Driven by a large pipeline of utility PV projects initially procured under the assumption of a 2016 federal ITC expiration, the third quarter of 2016 represents the first phase of this massive wave of project completion – a trend that will continue well into the first half of 2017,” said Cory Honeyman, associate director of US solar at GTM Research.

Commercial & industrial

The utility segment was closely followed by commercial PV, which saw 375MW installed; growing 15% over the second quarter of the year and 37% annually. The report credits the growing phenomenon of community solar for part of this growth – as it accounted for 20% of the entire segment in Q3. 

Residential

Continuing a streak of exponential growth, this quarter marked the sixth consecutive quarter in which more than half a gigawatt of residential PV was installed. However, residential is still suffering a slowdown from its peak growth quarters; falling 10% from Q2’s total and growing just 2% year-over-year. The reason for this set back has been attributed to policy obstacles in the segment such as challenges posed by rate design reform – resulting in the scaling back of net metering in some states, with complete elimination in others.

Overall, GTM Research forecasts the US to install 14.1GW in 2016 alone, up 88% over 2015’s total but also down 1.9GW than previously predicted at the beginning of the year. The shortfall is largely down to the investment tax credit (ITC) extension – with developers pushing out their expected CODs. 

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