U.S. solar market to expand

Report: U.S. solar market to expand 119 percent in 2016

The U.S. solar energy market is expected to grow by an estimated 119 percent this year, according to a recent study by Massachusetts-based media company GTM Research.

The firm’s U.S. Solar Market Report (2015 Year in Review), which was released this week via the Washington D.C.-based Solar Energy Industries Association, predicted that 16 gigawatts of solar arrays will be installed across the U.S. this year.

That number more than doubles the previous record of 7.3 gigawatts annually, which was set in 2015. The report estimates that 74 percent of those installations will be attributed to the utilities market, but that the residential and commercial markets will also experience significant growth this year. The country has nearly installed one-million solar systems, according to the report.

“This is a new energy paradigm and the solar industry officially has a seat at the table with the largest energy producers,” SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch said March 9 in a news release announcing the report’s findings. “Because of the strong demand for solar energy nationwide, and smart public policies like the ITC and NEM, hundreds of thousands of well-paying solar jobs will be added in the next few years benefiting both America’s economy and the environment.”

The SEIA attributes this year’s rapid rate of growth, at least partially, to the aspirations of developers aiming to take advantage of the federal government’s Investment Tax Credit program (30 percent tax incentives on all solar projects), which was originally scheduled to expire in December before recently receiving an extension through 2019.

“Now, in 2016, state-level drivers and risks will move to the forefront and play even larger roles in the growth of both distributed and utility-scale solar,” according to the SEIA release.

The report also cited new community solar programs, utility incentive programs and an ever-increasing interest in rooftop solar systems as key trends that will drive growth through the end of 2016.

“In 2016, the rooftop solar economic outlook will depend not only on favorable outcomes to net energy metering debates, but customer-wide and solar-specific rate structure reforms that can impact savings due too solar as well,” GTM Research Senior Analyst Cory Honeyman said in the report.

The report stated that non-residential community solar projects in Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota alone will collectively install more than 100 megawatts of photovoltaics in 2016.