Houston — US solar installations in 2018, while down 2% from the prior year due to policy shifts in states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut and due to tariffs on some imported solar panels, nonetheless totaled 10.6 GW, according to a report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association on Wednesday.
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There is now 62.4 GW of residential, non-residential and utility-scale solar installed in the US, "about 75 times more than was installed at the end of 2008."
The report said that solar PV accounted for 29% of new electricity generating capacity additions in 2018, slightly below the level represented by solar in 2017 due to a surge in new natural gas plants in that year.
"The US solar industry experienced growing pains in 2018, in large part due to the unnecessary tariffs that were imposed on solar cells and modules," Abigail Ross Hopper, the president and CEO of SEIA said, referring to the 30% Section 201 four-year tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in February 2018 that stepped down to 25% for this year.
In 2018, 6.2 GW of utility-scale solar was installed, which was 58% of total installations.
The report says that "after the uncertainty of the tariffs passed," there were 13.2 GW of utility-scale solar power purchase agreements signed in 2018. The analysts said that many of the PPAs were signed with expected commercial operation dates in years after the import tariffs have stepped down even further.
PROJECTING A DOUBLING IN NEXT FIVE YEARS
Hopper said that she believes the total amount of solar installed in the US is "on track to more than double in the next five years."
According to the report, total installed capacity in the US is expected to rise by 14% in 2019 to roughly 12 GW and to annual installations reaching 15.8 GW in 2021, prior to the expiration of the residential federal Investment Tax Credit and a drop in the ITC to 10% for projects not yet under construction.
The report said that Wood Mackenzie increased its five-year forecast by 2.3 GW as a result of what it called a large volume of project announcements, the inclusion of more solar in long-term utility resource planning, and "an increase in project development driven by renewable portfolio standards and growing corporate interest."
A RESIDENTIAL REBOUND
In Q4 2018, there was 4.2 GW of solar PV installed, 139% more than in Q3 2018.
The report said that Q4 was the most active quarter for residential installations in two years, "a sign that the residential market is stabilizing," the report said.
According to the researchers, there were a total of 314,600 new residential systems installed in 2018.
In 2017 residential solar installations fell by 15%. Growth in 2018 of 7% "was 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.
Perea said that after a turn toward more efficient sales channels, both national and regional installers exceeded expectations in California and Nevada, "which drove the lion's share of residential growth in 2018."
Non-residential PV saw an annual decline of 8%, largely due to policy shifts in some states, the report said. For example, in May the Connecticut legislature passed a bill rolling back net metering. In January 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved demand charges for net metering customers of Eversource Energy's utilities operating in the state.
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-- Edited by Annie Siebert, email@example.com