In the first three months of the year, the U.S. installed 2.7 GW of solar photovoltaics (PV), making it the most solar ever installed in the first quarter of a year. With the strong first quarter, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables forecasts 25% growth in 2019 compared to 2018, and it expects more than 13 GWdc of installations this year.
Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center Dennis Schroeder / NREL
The largest share of installations during the record-breaking quarter came from the utility PV segment, with 1.6 GW coming on-line, making up 61 percent of PV capacity installed. The report notes that with 4.7 GW of projects under construction, 2019 is on track to be a strong year for utility PV, with 46 percent growth over 2018 expected.
“Voluntary procurement of utility PV based on its economic competitiveness continues to be the primary driver of projects announced in 2019,” said Wood Mackenzie Senior Solar Analyst Colin Smith.
The residential market experienced annual growth as well. According to the report, the U.S. saw 603 MW of residential solar installations during the first quarter, up 6 percent annually.
“Despite steady installations in Q1 2019, the residential market is still highly reliant on legacy state markets, such as California and the Northeast, which have seen only modest to flat growth over the past several quarters,” said Wood Mackenzie Solar Analyst Austin Perea.
“As these major state markets continue to grow past early-adopter consumers, higher costs of customer acquisition will challenge the industry to innovate product offerings and diversify geographically,” continued Perea.
In fact, the report notes that 29 percent of residential capacity in Q1 2019 came from markets outside the top 10 solar states by capacity, the highest share for emerging markets in industry history.
The non-residential segment saw 438 MW of PV installed on the quarter, which was down on both a quarterly and annual basis. According to the report, this is largely a result of state-level policy reforms in historically strong markets for the segment including California, Massachusetts and Minnesota. The authors point to new community solar mandates in New York, Maryland, Illinois and New Jersey that will help reinvigorate the segment beginning in 2020.
By the end of 2019, Wood Mackenzie forecasts the U.S. solar market to grow 14 percent year-over-year. Over the next five years, total installed U.S. PV capacity will more than double, with annual installations reaching 16.4 GWdc by 2021 prior to the expiration of the residential federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and a drop in the commercial tax credit to 10 percent for projects not yet under construction.