Fueled by Growth in the Residential Segment, U.S. Installs 1.3 GW of PV in Q1 2015

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BOSTON, MA and WASHINGTON D.C. - Shattering previous records, the United States residential solar market grew 76 percent over the first quarter of 2014, installing 437 megawatts[i] (MW) of photovoltaics (PV) in the first three months of 2015. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Q1 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, released today, the U.S. installed 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV across all market segments.

FIGURE: U.S. PV Installations, Q1 2010-Q1 2015

Source: GTM Research / SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Report

The Northeastern United States experienced one of its worst winters in history, but this didn’t prevent the residential solar market segment from having its best quarter of all time. The first quarter tends to be the slowest time of the year for the solar market due to weather, accounting and tax considerations. However, the residential market still grew 11 percent over last quarter, its previous high-water mark.

“Q1 2015 provided a clear glimpse into the future role that the residential sector will play as a primary driver of not only solar market growth, but the overall electricity generation mix.” Said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “In the first quarter of this year, the U.S. installed more residential solar than natural gas, and solar on the whole accounted for 51 percent of all new electric generating brought online. We expect more than three million residential solar installations over the next five years, marked by a broader trend toward customer engagement in energy usage, generation and management.”

The non-residential and utility segments were more impacted by some of the market’s usual seasonality.

The non-residential market installed 225 MW in the first quarter of the year. The report notes that the customer origination, project finance and state incentive reductions continue to challenge the segment. But despite these challenges, five of the six largest non-residential state markets did grow over Q1 2014.

Continuing to carry the largest share of the market, the utility segment installed 644 MW, which represents 49 percent of new PV capacity brought on-line in Q1 2015. Utility PV installations have now surpassed 500 MW for eight consecutive quarters. Yet, the highlight of this quarter for the segment was not what came on-line, but instead what was procured and added to the pipeline.

The report notes that there are now 25 project developers with pipelines in development of 100 MW or more. GTM Research expects a flurry of activity in the utility segment over the next 18 months ahead of the scheduled decline of the federal Investment Tax Credit.

FIGURE: Utility PV Pipeline


Source: GTM Research / SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Report

“Today’s report reveals just how important establishing and maintaining effective, forward-looking public policies, like the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), are to America,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “Solar continues to be the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States. By 2016, the U.S. will be generating enough clean solar energy to power 8 million homes. That means solar will offset 45 million metric tons of damaging carbon emissions – the equivalent of removing 10 million cars off our roads and highways.”

 GTM Research forecasts that PV installations will reach 7.9 GW in 2015, up 27 percent over 2014.

Key Findings from the Q1 2015 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report

  • The U.S. installed 1,306 MW of solar PV in Q1 2015, marking the sixth consecutive quarter in which the U.S. added more than 1 GW of PV installations.
  • The residential and utility PV market segments each added more capacity than the natural gas industry brought on-line in Q1 2015.
  • Collectively, more than 51 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. came from solar in Q1 2015.
  • 66,440 individual solar systems came online in Q1 2015, bringing the total to nearly 700,000 nationwide. 
  • The average cost for a residential solar system is now $3.48/watt, 10 percent lower than this time last year.
  • More than one-third of all community solar installations have come on-line since 2014.
  • More than 5 GW of centralized PV has now been procured by utilities based on solar’s economic competitiveness with fossil-fuel alternatives.  
  • Through Q1 2015, nearly one-fourth of cumulative residential solar installations have now come on-line without any state incentive.
  • PV installations are forecast to reach 7.9 GW in 2015, up 27 percent over 2014. Growth will occur in all segments, but will be most rapid in the residential market.
  • 2014 was the largest year ever for concentrating solar power, with 767 MW brought on-line. The next notable CSP project slated for completion is SolarReserve’s 110 MW Crescent Dunes, which entered the commissioning phase in 2014 and is expected to become fully operational before the end of 2015.

 


[i] Unless specified otherwise, all PV is reported in MW direct current (MWdc) based on array size and all CSP is reported in MW alternating current (MWac) based on power block size. For more information, see http://www.seia.org/policy/solar-technology/photovoltaic-solar-electric/whats-megawatt

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About U.S. Solar Market Insight:
The U.S. Solar Market Insight report is the most detailed and timely research available on the continuing growth and opportunity in the U.S. The report includes deep analysis of solar markets, technologies and pricing, identifying the key metrics that will help solar decision-makers navigate the market's current and forecasted trajectory. For more information, visit http://www.greentechmedia.com/research/ussmi.

About GTM Research:
GTM Research, a division of Greentech Media, provides critical and timely market analysis in the form of research reports, data services, advisory services and strategic consulting. GTM Research's analysis also underpins Greentech Media's webinars and live events. Our coverage spans the green energy industry including solar power, grid modernization, energy storage, energy efficiency and wind power sectors.

About SEIA®:
Celebrating its 41st anniversary in 2015, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA® is building a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to champion the use of clean, affordable solar in America by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy. Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org.

 

Media Contacts:

Mike Munsell, GTM Research Marketing Manager, munsell@gtmresearch.com (617) 500-7764
Ken Johnson, SEIA Vice President of Communications, kjohnson@seia.org (202) 556-2885

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