New Record for Solar PV Installations

More than 2 million new solar PV installations were installed in the U.S. in the first three months of 2019—a new record for the first quarter of the year—according to the Wood Mackenzie/Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) U.S. Solar Market Insight report, which was released this week.

Utilities led the way, installing 1.6 GWdc of PV capacity during the period—61% of quarterly capacity additions. With 4.7 GWdc of projects under construction, the report says “2019 is on track to be a strong year for utility PV, with 46% growth over 2018 expected.”

Furthermore, the report says total installed U.S. PV capacity will more than double over the next five years, with annual installations reaching 16.4 GWdc in 2021 prior to the expiration of the residential federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and a drop in the commercial tax credit to 10% for projects not yet under construction.

“The first quarter data and projections for the rest of the year are promising for the solar industry,” Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “However, if we are to make the kind of progress we need to make the 2020s The Solar Decade, we will need to make substantial policy and market advances.”

Cheaper components are spurring the growth in PV installations. For example, the cost per kilogram of polysilicon dropped from $17.50 in the first quarter of 2018 to $9.30 this year. Likewise, the cost per watt for multi-wafer components decreased from $0.13 to $0.06 over the period.

“Voluntary procurement of utility PV based on its economic competitiveness continues to be the primary driver of projects announced in 2019,” said Wood Mackenzie Senior Solar Analyst Colin Smith. “While many states, utilities and cities have announced or proposed 50 or 100 percent renewable energy or zero-carbon standards, the announcements have not yet resulted in an uptick in [renewable portfolio standard]-driven procurement.”

Going forward, the reports says growth will continue, with the industry expected to hit 3 million installations in the first quarter of 2021 and 4 million installations in the first quarter of 2023.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).