Solar century: US passes 100GW milestone as industry ‘doubles in size in three years’

Latest report from SEIA and Wood Mackenzie shows record quarterly install of 5GW powered by utility sector, with total 250GW-plus on five-year horizon


The US solar market flew past the milestone of 100GW of generating plant in the first quarter of the year, adding a record 5GW of new PV as utilities stepped up build-out plans that could see 250GW in operation within five years, according to the latest figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Solar had a best-ever Q1, up 46% on the same period last year and accounting for 58% of all new power capacity switched on in the country, said SEIA in its new US Solar Market Insight, produced with Wood Mackenzie.

“It’s incredible to see the solar industry pass 100GW after the policy and regulatory hurdles we’ve faced over the last few years,” said SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper, who noted the US solar industry had “doubled in size over the last 3.5 years”.

“While we’re poised for more growth, we must accelerate solar and storage deployment to address the climate crisis and reach President Biden’s ambitious clean energy goals. Long-term policy certainty is the best way to do that, and we’re urging Congress to act this summer.”

The utility-scale solar sector was responsible for the “majority” of the PV additions, with a Q1 record of 3.6GW, while residential sales continued to grow with over 900MW, an 11% increase over the same period last year.

Texas led all states with 1.5GW of new capacity wired-in in the quarter, “more than it added in all of 2019 and three times more than any other state”, Hopper noted, flagging Indiana, Virginia, Michigan, and Iowa as “among the top ten solar states” in Q1.

The US Investment Tax Credit is expected to continue to be “highly influential” to the solar sector’s progress “over the next three years”, according to the report, which forecasts 160GW of PV capacity being added in the next five years, bringing total US solar capacity to more than 250GW.

SEIA shot up a warning flare on rising costs in the solar industry where average system prices have remained “relatively stable” but “key inputs for solar modules and installations, including polysilicon, steel, aluminium, semiconductor chips, copper and other metals, are facing supply constraints”.

“Demand for solar power continues to grow, but attention is now turning to supply chain constraints, which have heightened since the latter half of 2020,” said Michelle Davis, principal analyst and lead author of the report.

“There is a lag between commodity prices and subsequent solar system prices. But there’s no doubt this is impacting the solar industry. Installers are managing current equipment shortages and having to decide whether to renegotiate contracts.”

Credits: Rechargenews

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