Solar Accounted For 40% Of New US Electricity Generation Capacity In 2019

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A new report by the Solar Energy Industries Association says solar energy installations added 13.3 gigawatts to the supply of electricity in the US in 2019 — 40% of the total. “Even as tariffs have slowed our growth, we’ve always said that the solar industry is resilient, and this report demonstrates that,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, CEO of SEIA. The report was prepared in conjunction with Wood Mackenzie.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • In 2019, the US solar market installed 13.3 GW of solar PV, a 23% increase from 2018.
  • Cumulative operating PV capacity in the US now exceeds 76 GW, up from just 1 GW at the end of 2009.
  • The US saw record-setting residential solar capacity added in 2019 with more than 2.8 GW installed.
  • The contracted utility PV pipeline grew to a record high of 48.1 GW in 2019.
  • Community solar continues to expand its geographic diversification, with the sub-segment seeing its third consecutive year of more than 500 MW installed.
SEIA solar energy forecast
Image credit: SEIA

Over the next 5 years, total installed US PV capacity is expected to more than double, with annual installations projected to reach 20.4 GW in 2021 prior to the expiration of the federal solar Investment Tax Credit for residential systems and a drop to 10% for commercial and utility-scale customers.

Florida A Bright Spot

Utility companies in Florida have been vehemently opposed to residential solar, but things are changing in the Sunshine State. Last year, more rooftop solar systems were installed in Florida than in any other state except California. “With much of the residential solar market to date driven by California and Northeast states, Florida is a window into the future of the national residential solar market given its resemblance to the vast swath of markets with no state-wide incentive programs or the high electricity prices that make rooftop solar so attractive,” says Austin Perea, a senior analyst with Wood Mackenzie.

California, which now requires all new homes to include rooftop solar systems, led the nation in residential installations. Nationwide, more than 2.8 gigawatts of new rooftop solar was installed — a 15% increase over 2018. This suggests the time is ripe for Tesla to increase Solar Roof installations and for GAF Energy to bring its DecoTech integrated residential solar systems to market.

A Caveat

According to the report, total installed PV capacity in the US is projected to rise by 47% in 2020, with nearly 20 GW of new installations expected by the end of this year. Each of the next two years are expected to be the largest on record for the US solar industry, driven by a desire to take advantage of federal tax credits while they are still available.

But there is a kicker to those projections. No one knows what the effect of the coronavirus will be on industry in general and the solar industry in particular. “Given the dynamic nature of the outbreak, it is too early to incorporate any changes into our outlooks with enough certainty,” the SEIA says. “Wood Mackenzie’s solar team is tracking industry changes closely as they relate to solar equipment supply chains, component pricing and project development timelines, and our organizations will issue follow-up reports on the impacts of the pandemic.”

In other words, these are unsettled times and no one can predict what effect the global pandemic will have on the economy. Keep your helmet on and your seat belt fastened until the ride comes to a complete stop.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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