US solar installations surpass 20GW mark

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The US installed 1,393MW of solar PV in the second quarter of this year, taking the country’s cumulative capacity beyond the 20GW milestone, according to the ‘Q2 2015 US Solar Market Insight Report’ from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

This is the seventh consecutive quarter in which the US has installed more than 1GW.

Meanwhile, GTM forecast that, with the second half of the year expected to be significantly larger than the first half, PV installations will hit a record 7.7GW in 2015, up 24% from 2014.

Growth is expected in all divisions of the solar sector, but residential solar will see the fastest growth. In Q2 the residential market set another record with 473MW deployed, marking an increase of 70% year-on-year. There were 10 states that installed more than 10MW of residential PV in the quarter compared to just four states that achieved that level in the same quarter of 2013, which suggests that the residential market is diversifying, the report said.

However, non-residential solar was down 33% in Q2, but GTM expects a stronger growth in the second half of the year due to a burgeoning community solar market across the US alongside “improving market dynamics in several states and continued financial innovation”.

More than half of the country’s installations in Q2 came from utility-scale solar with 729MW coming online. GTM noted that with the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) due to decrease at the end of 2016, utility-scale solar is at a record high with 5GW of capacity under construction at present.

The report forecast that utility-scale instalaltions will drop 55% in 2017 because of the challenges posed by the lower ITC as well as project developers focusing on bringing their contracted projects on-line before the end of 2016 in order to capture the full 30% credit.

The report stated: “This pull-in of the utility solar pipeline will render the ITC cliff dramatic.”

The lowering costs of solar compared to traditional fossil-fuel alternatives has also become a key factor in solar deployment figures. Of the 16.6GW of utility-scale PV currently under development, 40% was procured mainly due to the economic competitiveness of solar.

Shayle Kann, senior vice president at GTM Research, said: “The utility PV market continues to be the bedrock driver of new installation growth. And in the second half of this year through 2016, growth will reach new heights as a higher share of what comes online stems from projects procured purely based on centralised solar’s cost competitiveness.”

GTM found that throughout the first half of the year, solar accounted for 40% of all the new electricity generation capacity that was brought online in the country.

Despite passing the 20GW mark with cumulative PV installations, the US’s top five states still account for nearly three-quarters of all deployment. Nevertheless 21 states now have more than 100MW of PV.

Rhone Resch, SEIA president and chief executive, said: “The demand for solar energy is now higher than ever and this report spells out how crucial it is for America to maintain smart, effective, forward-looking public policies, like the ITC, beyond 2016.

“At over 20GW of installed solar electric capacity, we now have enough solar in the US to power 4.6 million homes, reducing harmful carbon emissions by more than 25 million metric tons a year. Since the ITC was passed in 2006, U.S. solar growth has exploded and more than 150,000 American solar jobs have been created. By any measurement, that’s a success for both our economy and environment.”

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