Report: U.S. solar market on track for record-breaking year

The growth of the solar industry outpaced that of coal, natural gas and nuclear power during the first quarter of 2016, according to a recent report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (in partnership with GTM Research).

During Q1 of 2016, 1,665 megawatts of solar photovoltaics were installed across the United States, which accounted for 64-percent of all new electric generating capacity brought online during the first quarter, according to SEIA’s “U.S. Solar Market Insight, Q2 2016.”

“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,” according to a SEIA news release published June 9. “The report also says that this year the solar industry will install an unprecedented 14.5 gigawatts (GW) of capacity, a 94 percent jump over the 7.5 GW in capacity installed in 2015. This growth cements solar energy’s role as a mainstay in America’s portfolio of electricity sources.”

The first three months of 2016 marked the 10th consecutive quarter in which more than one gigawatt of photovoltaics was installed in the U.S. and the 12th consecutive quarter in which more than 500 megawatts of utility-scale photovoltaics were installed, according to the report. The report also found that there are now more than 1 million operating solar photovoltaic installations in the United States -- a total of 27.5 gigawatts 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,” Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s interim president, said in the news release. “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.”

Looking ahead, the report’s findings suggest that utility photovoltaics are expected to drive demand with non-residential systems continuing to push U.S. capacity upward.
“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,” Cory Honeyman, GTM Research’s associate director of U.S. Solar, said in the release. “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.”