US adds 2.3 GW of solar in Q2, utility-scale leads

The 50-MW solar facility at NAS Pensacola NOLF Saufley. (Photo: Business Wire)

September 13 (Renewables Now) - The US solar industry recorded a 9% year-on-year drop in second-quarter solar photovoltaic (PV) deployments, totalling 2.3 GW in direct current (DC), but saw a boom in the utility-scale segment and a stabilising residential market, shows a new report.

According to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, previously known as GTM Research, and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar capacity additions will grow in the second half of the year, led by utility-scale projects. Given the surge in procurement, also fuelled by the record low module prices, Wood Mackenzie has lifted its five-year forecast for the segment by 1.9 GW, expecting the total installed solar PV capacity in the US to more than double with over 14 GW of plants coming online each year by 2023.

“As we move toward 2019, we expect to see continued procurement growth as developers look to secure projects they can bring online before the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) steps down to 10 percent in 2022,” said Colin Smith, senior analyst at the research and consultancy group. This will happen in spite of the tariffs on imported PV modules and cells that forced developers to delay or cancel some of their projects, which the analyst says are the first clear signs of the tariffs’ impact on the market.

The utility-scale segment expanded in the second quarter and some 8.5 GW of capacity was commissioned in the first half of the year. The total includes 26 projects of over 100 MW.

Meanwhile, the residential segment installed 577 MW in April-June, flat on both a quarterly and yearly basis as customer acquisition challenges start to resolve. Emerging residential state markets such as Florida and Nevada were major contributors and helped the segment rebound after a 15% decline last year.

A drop of 16% quarter-on-quarter and 8% year-on-year was recorded in the non-residential segment. Demand for community solar is still growing, led by Massachusetts and Minnesota with over 300 MW of commissioned capacity in the first half of 2018.

For 2018, Wood Mackenzie expects a flat year for the solar market as a whole as compared to 2017 and new deployments of 10.9 GW DC.

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Veselina Petrova is one of Renewables Now's most experienced green energy writers. For several years she has been keeping track of game-changing events both large and small projects and across the globe.

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