SEIA report outlines explosive growth in U.S. solar installations in 2016

In the first quarter of 2016, 1,665 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity was installed in the United States with the solar industry adding more new capacity during this period than coal, natural gas and nuclear combined.

According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association‘s (SEIA) “U.S. Solar Market Insight, Q2 2016,” the 1,665 MW accounted for 64% of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the first quarter of the year. The SEIA noted in a June 9 statement that this growth builds off the momentum of a record 2015, in which solar exceeded natural gas capacity additions on an annual basis for the first time ever.

The report also says that this year the solar industry will install an unprecedented 14.5 GW of capacity, a 94% jump over the 7.5 GW in capacity installed in 2015.

The first quarter of 2016 marks the 10th consecutive quarter in which more than a GW of PV was installed in the United States, and the 12th consecutive quarter in which 500 MW or more of utility-scale PV was installed. In turn, there are now more than a million operating solar PV installations across the country, representing 27.5 cumulative GW of operating capacity.

“While it took us 40 years to hit 1 million U.S. solar installations, we’re expected to hit 2 million within the next two years,” said Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s interim president. “The solar industry is growing at warp speed, driven by the fact that solar is one of the lowest cost options for electricity and it’s being embraced by people who both care about the environment and want access to affordable and reliable electricity.”

Utility PV is expected to drive the majority of demand, accounting for nearly three-fourths of new capacity. More than 10 GW (dc) of utility PV is slated to come on-line this year. At least another 4.5 GW (dc) of utility PV installations are expected to be nearly or fully finished with construction in Q4 2016 and official commercial operation expected in 2017.

The non-residential solar market experienced some much needed consistency this past quarter, SEIA said. The report notes that for the first time ever, the non-residential market experienced back-to-back quarters with installations of 300 MW or more.

“Over the past six months, the non-residential PV segment has shown glimpses of a market that can grow across a more diverse set of project development opportunities,” said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research’s associate director of U.S. Solar. “While a number of policy- and customer-driven bottlenecks continue to challenge the market, a handful of state policies established over the past half year should unlock new customer-sited and offsite development, with Fortune 500 corporate customers playing a key role in supporting the market’s rebound.”

With the recent extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit, a number of large-scale projects have breathing room to spill over into 2017. That spillover effect, plus a growing number of geographies where distributed and utility PV are attractive with an ITC extension, position U.S. solar to remain a double-digit GW annual market through the end of this decade.

The U.S. Solar Market Insight report is the most detailed and timely research available on the continuing growth and opportunity in the U.S. The report includes deep analysis of solar markets, technologies and pricing, identifying the key metrics that will help solar decisionmakers navigate the market’s current and forecasted trajectory. For more information, visit www.seia.org/smi.

Celebrating its 42nd anniversary in 2016, the Solar Energy Industries Association is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to champion the use of clean, affordable solar in America by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy.

GTM Research, a division of Greentech Media, provides critical and timely market analysis in the form of research reports, data services, advisory services and strategic consulting. Its coverage spans the green energy industry including solar power, grid modernization, energy storage, energy efficiency and wind power sectors.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.