SEIA: US solar continues ‘impressive growth’

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The US Solar Energy Industries’ Association (SEIA) has found that 1,354MW of PV was installed in the third quarter of this year, making it the second largest ever quarter for PV in the USA.

Once again installed capacity of solar in the US made a significant jump, SEIA said, with 1,354MW of installations in the past quarter representing an increase of around 20% on the previous quarter and a 41% increase on the same period of last year. In Q2 2014, the country installed around 1,133MW of PV, while last year, only 963MW was added in the third quarter.

In total, the US has now reached and surpassed the 16GW figure it was closing in on last quarter. The country has an installed generation capacity of 16.1GW of PV – plus around 1.4GW of concentrator PV (CPV) installed. The figures come from the latest iteration of the US Solar Market Insight, which is published jointly each quarter by the trade advocacy group and GTM Research.

SEIA’s president and chief executive officer Rhone Resch led his organisation in hailing the performance of the industry. Resch pointed out that effectively, a solar power project is completed and switched on every three minutes in the US and credited public policies such as net metering “in large part” with making the growth in both volume and rate of installations possible.

“Solar’s continued, impressive growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for America. Every three minutes of every single day, the US solar industry is flipping the switch on another completed solar project, benefitting both our economy and the environment,” Resch said.

The SEIA is campaigning to save the ITC and recently said that it remains optimistic about the future for US solar, despite the recent election of a Republican majority to Congress.

The organisation also drew significance from the fact that solar made up over a third of the US’ total added power generation capacity, standing at 36% for the first three quarters of the year, again showing a leap from 2013’s annual figure of 29% and 2012’s relatively paltry 9.6%. The third quarter figures do however show a slowdown from the first half of the year’s proportion, when PV represented 53% of new capacity.

In terms of market segments, utility-scale solar continued to represent the majority of installations for the sixth straight quarter, with 825MW installed, with the remainder of the 1,354MW total, 529MW, added across the residential and commercial markets. Of the latter figure, 300MW was residential and 229MW commercial.

While utility-scale solar could be in for something of a barrier to development when the investment tax credit (ITC) drop from 30% to 10% in 2017, according to some analysts, SEIA said that residential continues to be “the most reliable market segment”. The quarterly figures for residential are the first time the segment has reached as high as 300MW. GTM Research, which was one of the analysis firms to forecast that utility-scale development will drop sharply from 2017, said in a comment on the SEIA findings that by that year, residential solar is likely to be the biggest market segment in the US. GTM and SEIA noted that over half of the 300MW added in the residential sector came online without any state incentives.

In total, SEIA and GTM Research said the US is on course to install around 6.5GW of PV in 2014, which appears to be in line with predictions from other analysts including IHS and its recently acquired rival, Solarbuzz. Taking a global outlook, analysts are split on their predictions for the fourth quarter of this year, as well as for 2014’s total installations. IHS has predicted a global total of 45.4GW for the year, while Solarbuzz has forecast a 50GW-plus figure, although both agree that China is likely to hit its annual target of 13GW and that Japan, the world’s second largest market, will install around 9GW for the year. 

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