March 13 (Renewables Now) - The US brought online 10.6 GW of fresh photovoltaic (PV) capacity in 2018, down 2% on the year, but is showing signs of rebounding in the residential segment, a report by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says.
The US solar market is expected to grow by 14% this year by adding more than 12 GW of capacity, while cumulative annual installations are forecast to reach 15.8 GW direct current (DC) in 2021 before the expiration of the residential federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO explained that 2018 was marked by “growing pains”, mostly caused by the tariffs on imported Chinese solar cells and modules, but added that significant reasons for optimism are in place. “The total amount of solar installed in America is on track to more than double in the next five years, proving solar’s resiliency and its economic strength,” he said.
Largely hit by the Section 201 trade case between the US and China, installations in the utility-scale sector fell by 7% on the year, standing at 6.2 GW. The contracted pipeline of projects, however, reached its highest level so far, hitting 25.3 GW in the third quarter, with 13.2 GW of utility-scale power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed in 2018.
Wood Mackenzie lifted its five-year projections for the sector by 2.3 GW since the fourth quarter of 2018 following new project announcements, the inclusion of more solar in long-term utility resource planning and increased project development.
The past year was marked by a 7% year-on-year rise in installations in the residential segment, after a 15% drop in 2017, driven by “a more diverse mixture of national and regional installers than in previous years,” said Austin Perea, senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. Almost 315,000 households equipped their homes with PV systems in 2018, with California and Nevada accounting for the largest share of the segment’s growth, which showed the greatest signs of stabilisation in the fourth quarter. Texas and Florida, meanwhile, together added more PV than some states with the highest penetration of solar.
The segment witnessed an 8% year-on-year drop in capacity additions due to policy transitions in major markets such as California and Massachusetts.
In 2018, solar PV accounted for 29% of all power generation capacity added in the US in the period. The country’s total operational solar capacity amounts to 62.4 GW.