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New US Solar Accounts For 64% Of New Electric Generating Capacity

New US solar PV installations in the first quarter accounted for 64% of all new electric generating capacity installed across the country, according to new figures from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. (Editor’s Note: This matches up essentially precisely my my estimate of 64.3%. And note that the full result for all renewables = 99%. See: “Renewables = 99% Of New Electricity Capacity In Q1 2016 In USA (CleanTechnica Electricity Reports).”)

According to the US Solar Market Insight, Q2 2016 report, published by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) this week, the US installed 1,665 MW of new solar PV during the first quarter, surpassing new coal, natural gas, and nuclear combined. The news reinforces the importance of the US solar industry, following on from a record 2015 in which the sector installed 7.5 GW of solar. This is the 10th consecutive quarter in which the US has installed more than 1 GW of new solar PV.

GTM Research and the SEIA also predict that the US solar market will install an unprecedented 14.5 GW of new solar PV in 2016, a 94% increase over 2015, adding to an already impressive 27.5 GW of operating solar PV capacity.

Share of New U.S. Electric Generating Capacity Additions


“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.”

While the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) will have a dramatic impact on the US solar PV market in 2016, as well as through the end of this decade, the rate at which the three solar PV segments in the US grow will be impacted by the timing of said extension.

The country’s utility-scale PV sector rushed more than 10 GW into development prior to the extension of the ITC, which is mostly expected to be brought online during 2016. Another 4.5 GW of utility PV installations are expected to be nearly or fully finished with construction in the fourth quarter of the year, though official commercial operation is expected in 2017.

The non-residential sector has remained flat over the past three years, though GTM and SEIA predict a rebound in 2016, which “should stem from new state-level policies established during legislative or regulatory proceedings in early 2016.”

“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 US 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.”

Non-residential solar was down 6% on an admittedly unique Q4’15, and up 36% over Q1’15.

Residential PV will receive a boost from the timing of net metering reforms in several major residential solar markets. Overall, in the first quarter, the sector was up 1% over Q4’15 and up 34% over Q1’15, with California accounting for nearly 50% of residential solar installed during the first quarter.

US PV Installations, Q1 2010 – Q1 2016


As can be seen above, 4th-quarter figures are out of line with the rest of the year, especially in 2015 when a number of developers were aiming to complete construction prior to the expected death of the Investment Tax Credit. The 4th quarter is historically responsible for the lion’s share of the annual installed capacity, and is shaping up to be the same again this year.

The spillover from 2016, which stemmed from the breathing room provided by the ITC extension, as well as the growing popularity of distributed and utility-scale solar PV throughout the country, is expected to help the US solar market remain a dominant source of new electricity generating capacity through the rest of this decade.

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