US adds record 19.2 GW of solar in 2020

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March 16 (Renewables Now) - The US added 19.2 GW direct current (DC) of solar capacity in 2020, marking growth of 43% from 2019 and eclipsing the previous record of 15.1 GW from 2016.

The final quarter saw record-high new installations of 8 GW, according to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie released on Tuesday.

"After a slowdown in Q2 due to the pandemic, the solar industry innovated and came roaring back to continue our trajectory as America's leading source of new energy," said SEIA president and chief executive Abigail Ross Hopper. Solar accounted for 43% of the electricity capacity the US added last year. It was followed by wind, which accounted for 38%.

The utility segment set records in the fourth quarter and the full year with 6.3 GW and almost 14 GW of installations, respectively. It ends 2020 with a contracted pipeline of 69 GW after 5 GW of new utility solar power purchase agreements (PPAs) were unveiled in the final quarter of the year.

New residential installations were affected by the pandemic in the first half of the year but still grew 11% year-over-year in 2020 to a record 3.1 GW. Non-residential installations were down 4% to 2 GW.

The states with the highest solar installations last year were California (3.9 GW), Texas (3.4 GW), Florida (2.8 GW) and Virginia (1.4 GW).

Michelle Davis of Wood Mackenzie expects the recent two-year extension of the investment tax credit (ITC) to boost solar additions through 2025. According to the consultancy's 10-year forecast, the US' solar capacity will quadruple to 419 GW by 2030 from almost 100 GW now.

"Compelling economics for distributed and utility-scale solar along with decarbonization commitments from numerous stakeholders will result in a landmark installation rate of over 50 GWdc by the end of the decade," Davis said.

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Browse all articles from Plamena Tisheva

Plamena has been a UK-focused reporter for many years. As part of the Renewables Now team she is taking a keen interest in policy moves.

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