The US solar industry has enjoyed a relatively strong quarter in the first half of 2014, despite trade disputes endangering projects currently in the pipeline.
New figures from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Q2 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight report show that the US installed 1,133 MW of new solar PV capacity in the second quarter of this year, pushing the cumulative operating capacity for PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) to 15.9 GW.
The most impressive numbers, however, are the shares of new US electric generation capacity across the first half of 2014. Total solar installed capacity for the period represented 53% of all new electricity generating capacity, beating out all competitors by a healthy margin.
“Solar continues to soar, providing more and more homes, businesses, schools and government entities across the United States with clean, reliable and affordable electricity,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch.
“Solar continues to be a primary source of new electric generation capacity in the US,” added Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President of GTM Research. “With new sources of capital being unlocked, design and engineering innovations reducing system prices, and sales channels rapidly diversifying, the solar market is quickly gaining steam to drive significant growth for the next few years.”
Nothing will quite match the fourth quarter of 2013 in terms of overall installations, given the number of trade disputes and the dissolving of many of the subsidies that pushed such growth, however GTM still contends the last two quarters have been strong ones for the US solar industry. PV installations reached 1,133 MW in the second quarter, and while there were no new CSP installations, during the first quarter of the year the sector celebrated the installation of the largest ever CSP project, the 392 MW Ivanpah project, and the second phase of Genesis Solar’s second 125 MW phase.
California once again topped the charts of installations during the first two quarters of 2014, accounting for more than 50% of installations for the fourth consecutive quarter.
This is definitely a boon for the industry within California, but it does force the industry to rely heavily on California to be the main driver of installations.
The utility PV segment was the main driver of installations over the first half of the year, making up 55% of US solar installations in the second quarter of the year. Utility-scale solar has accounted for more than half of national PV installations for the fifth straight quarter, quadrupling its cumulative size in just two years — growing from 1,784 MW in the first half of 2012 to 7,308 MW
Unsurprisingly then, solar is driving a lot of jobs as well. According to Rhone Resch, the solar industry in the US employs 143,000 people, and funnels nearly $15 billion year into the national economy.
“This remarkable growth is due in large part to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS),” said Resch. “By any measure, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the U.S. economy and the environment, and they should be maintained, if not expanded, given their tremendous success, as well as their importance to America’s future.”
Trade disputes are no doubt going to cast a pall over the third quarter figures, but to what extent is as yet unknown. Chinese manufacturers and suppliers haven’t totally stopped trading with the US, which will undoubtedly help protect a large portion of the US PV pipeline, but just how much of the pipeline will be affected is yet to be seen.
GTM Research and SEIA forecast a total of 6.5 GW of PV to be installed during 2014, up 36% over 2013, but the next few months will prove how likely this figure is.