By - Jim Vess

Q1 2019 solar PV installations set a record as 13 GW of new solar are forecast for the year

Energize Weekly, July 3, 2019

After a record first quarter for photovoltaic (PV) solar installations in the U.S., the market is poised to install 13 gigawatts (GW) of PV in 2019 – a 25 percent increase over 2018, according to energy consultant Wood Mackenzie.

In the first quarter of 2019, 2.7 GW of solar PV was installed, 10 percent more than in the first quarter of 2018, and the most ever for the quarter, according to the Solar Insights Market Report from Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The first quarter installations were, however, down 37 percent from the fourth quarter of 2018.

“The first quarter data and projections for the rest of the year are promising for the solar industry,” Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s CEO, said in a statement. “However, if we are to make the kind of progress we need to make the 2020s The Solar Decade, we will need to make substantial policy and market advances.”

Utility-scale installations accounted for 1.6 GW, followed by residential arrays with 603 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, marking a rebound for the sector with its third straight quarter of more than 600 MW.

The acquisition of utility-scale solar is being driven by the economic competitiveness of the product, according to Colin Smith, a Wood Mackenzie analyst.

“While many states, utilities and cities have announced or proposed 50 or 100 percent renewable energy or zero-carbon standards, the announcements have not yet resulted in an uptick in RPS [Renewable Portfolio Standards] driven procurement,” Smith said in a statement.

Non-residential solar, hampered by policy changes in California, Minnesota and Massachusetts, dropped to 438 MW for the quarter, the lowest three-month installation number since the first quarter of 2017.

New community solar mandates by Massachusetts, Illinois and New Jersey should help bolster the non-residential market, the report said.

“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,” Wood Mackenzie solar analyst Austin Perea said in a statement.

The market, however, is expanding with 29 percent of residential capacity in the quarter coming in markets outside the top 10 states for solar by capacity – the highest share ever booked by emerging markets.

In the first quarter of 2019, cumulative solar installation surpassed 2 million after hitting the 1 million installations mark three years ago. Wood Mackenzie said the industry is expected to reach 3 million installations by 2021 and 4 million by 2023.

Total installation capacity is projected to hit 16.7 GW in 2021, just before the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) expires and commercial projects not under construction see a 10 percent drop in the tax credit.

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