US installed 6.2GW of solar PV in 2014, report confirms

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The US installed 6.2GW of solar PV in 2014, according to a new report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The figure represents a year on year increase of 30%. There was also 767MW of concetrated solar power capacity added.

The residential sector installed 1.2GW last year, the first time it surpassed the 1GW mark. More than 500MW of this was installed without any state-level support, another first.

“The residential market has continued to build off the continued impressive growth over the past couple of years,” Cory Honeyman, solar analyst, GTM Research told PV Tech. “We're now seeing an increasing number of states installing significant proportions of solar from outside state incentive programmes. This had previously been a theme restricted to California in 2013 but now it is happening in other established state markets, notably Arizona and New York.”

The latter has now become the second largest residential market and became the second state to install more than 40MW in a given quarter, according to Honeyman.

“New York is very much on GTM's radar as the hottest growth market for residential solar beyond California. It has relatively high retail electricity rates and attractive rate design, it’s a market that has long-term stability with consistent increases to the aggregate net metering limit, so a lot of the pieces are in place for a ramp up in investment from national installers and financiers in the residential market,” added Honeyman.

The utility-scale market installed 3.9GW in 2014 with another 14GW contracted. There are concerns looking ahead with the 30% investment tax credit for projects dropping to 10% at the end of 2016. GTM estimates a drop of 57% in utility solar in 2017 compared to 2016. In the immediate term, projects have increasingly been built without the push of a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) quota.

“The utility market continues to be the bedrock of demand when you think about megawatts deployed and brought online. A number of developers are expediting their pipelines to make sure they have adequate time for the ambitious pipelines they have in place,” said Honeyman.

“A number of projects in the utility-scale market were driven by legacy contracts from the RPS. Looking ahead into 2015 and 2016 is that [there is] this growing pool of projects and a lot of secondary markets are coming from solicitations driven by things other than RPS obligations. In the past 18 months or so more than 4GW has been deployed outside of RPS standards.”

The commercial-scale segment became the first of the three market segments in the report to record a drop from year to year with its heightened sensitivity to falling incentives telling.

Honeyman also said there was little impact on the US solar industry as a result of the trade dispute that ran for the duration of 2014.

“There are definitely a portion of projects with PPAs and slated for completion in 2015/16 that will have to revise their expectations about the margins they can capture. The impacts [of the trade row] are perhaps expected to be more honed in on the utility market and in 2014 a lot of those impacts had not materialised yet. We will keep an eye on that in 2015,” he added.

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