By - Michael Drost

Residential solar market grew 76 percent in first quarter 2015: report

Energize Weekly, June 17, 2015

The U.S. residential solar market had its best quarter ever during the first three months 2015, installing a record 437 megawatts (MW) of solar and growing 11 percent over fourth quarter 2014, according to a new report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research.

According to figures in its latest US Solar Market Insight report, the U.S. installed 1.3 gigawatts of solar PV across all market segments in the first quarter 2015, a slight decline from a year ago which saw nearly 1.36 gigawatts of solar PV installed, the first drop year over year since 2010. Despite the decline, GTM and SEIA anticipate another record year for solar in the U.S. in every market segment, fueled by growth in the residential sector and the anticipated expiration of a federal investment tax credit.

“The residential juggernaut will continue to roll on, while the non-residential market will pick up, particularly in California and New York. And the utility-scale pipeline has reached unprecedented levels ahead of the looming federal Investment Tax Credit expiration,” the report said.

Despite having one of the worst winters on record, and despite the fact solar installation typically slows down in the first quarter due to weather and tax reasons, residential solar installations picked up in the first quarter 1015, growing 11 percent over the previous quarter to a record 437 MW.

“Q1 2015 provided a clear glimpse into the future role that the residential sector will play as a primary driver of not only solar market growth, but the overall electricity generation mix.”

Collectively, more than 51 percent of all new electric generation capacity installed in the U.S. during the first quarter 2015 came from solar, while the average cost for a residential solar system is now $3.48 per watt, according to the report. PV installations are forecast to reach 7.9 gigawatts in 2015, up 27 percent over 2014, with the most rapid advancements occurring in the residential sector. In addition, more than a third of all community solar installations to date have come on-line since 2014.

Beyond pure numbers, the report cites the emerging trend of technology convergence in the distributed solar market. While distributed solar is primarily a single offering to customers, the report says that installers and developers are increasingly looking for opportunities to combine solar with other technology services, such as storage and demand response. The trend is still in its infancy, according to the report authors, however as technology becomes more prominent and cost-effective, and electricity rates evolve to incorporate more residential solar PV integration, expect to see further convergence “and more integrated energy offerings for customers.”

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