Solar made up over half of new capacity in 1H 2014, SEIA says

Solar power continued to set new milestones in the United States during the first six months of 2014, the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research said in a quarterly update issued Sept. 8.

The organizations released their quarterly U.S. Solar Market Insight report and it expands upon a statement that the groups issued about second quarter solar growth a few days earlier.

Solar has accounted for 53% of new electric generation capacity installed during the first half of 2014, according to FERC’s energy infrastructure data. By comparison natural gas has accounted for 30% and wind power 14% of new capacity brought online during the first six months of the year.

Photovoltaic (PV) installations reached 1,133 MW (DC) in Q2, up 21% over the same quarter in 2013. As has been the case for the last two years, the utility PV market drove the majority of this growth, accounting for 55% of capacity installed in Q2 2014, the groups said in the report.

“By all accounts, 2014 will be another banner year for solar in the U.S.,” SEIA and GTM said in the report. “We forecast that 6,512 MW dc will be installed this year, up 36% over 2013 and more than 650% over 2010. Likewise, 2014 will be a landmark year for concentrating solar power (CSP), which will likely see a total of 857 MWac completed.”

Cumulative operating PV capacity has now eclipsed the 15 GW (DC) mark, thanks to three consecutive quarters of more than 1 GW installed, the groups said.

Key trends identified in the report include:

** The resurgence of utility PV procurement. Despite many utilities in the Western states having already met their near-term renewable energy obligations, utility-scale solar project developers have amassed more than 3 GW of new contracts over the past 12 months.

** Progress on net metering. “Net energy metering remains a crucial point of contention between the solar industry and utilities in more than a dozen states. Thus far, the outcomes of these debates have largely favored the solar industry, but many remain in process,” SEIA says in the report.

** The residential solar juggernaut continues. The residential market has seen the most consistent growth of any segment for years, and its momentum shows no signs of slowing, SEIA said. For the first time ever, more than 100 MW (DC) came on-line without any state incentive in Q2 2014. However, the residential market has grown increasingly dependent on California, which accounted for more than 50% of installations for the fourth consecutive quarter.

** The small commercial solar gap. “Within the non-residential market, we focus on the small commercial sector, whose share of installations has been shrinking precipitously over the past few years, even as the share of projects larger than 1 MW dc has grown. “Difficulties in financing, along with other non-scaling costs, have long kept the small commercial sector in check despite its enormous potential,” the groups said in the report.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.