Utilities drive Q2 growth in US as pandemic causes drop in rooftop solar installations
The US solar market installed 3.5 gigawatts (GW) of new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in Q2 2020, a drop of 6% from Q1 installations. At the same time, utility-scale solar remained resilient despite the Covid-19 pandemic, representing 71% of all new solar capacity brought online in Q2.
However, the US Solar Market Insight Q3 2020 report, released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie, noted that the residential and non-residential segments saw a significant slowdown in the quarter. Installations were down 23% quarter over quarter in the residential segment, and 12% quarter over quarter in the non-residential sector, due to restrictions and shelter-in-place orders imposed to curb the pandemic.
“The growth we see in this report underscores the resilience of the solar industry as we deal with Covid work stoppages, a struggling economy, harmful trade policy and an uncertain tax environment,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Tens of thousands of our workers have been laid off or furloughed amid this crisis, and SEIA remains firm in our commitment to fight for equitable policy that allows the solar industry to compete and grow our workforce.”
Solar accounted for 37% all new electric generating capacity added in the U.S. in the first half of 2020, as Texas and Florida each installed over 900 megawatts (MW) across distributed and utility solar in Q2. The report said a total of 8.7 GWdc of new utility PV power-purchase agreements were announced in the second quarter, bringing the contracted pipeline to a total of 62 GWdc.
“The impact of the pandemic on residential solar installations varied substantially by geography,” said Austin Perea, senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie. “States with more restrictive stay-at-home orders saw significant declines in quarterly solar additions, whereas states with less restrictive stay-at-home directives – such as Arizona and Texas – saw marginal if any decline in quarterly installations.”
Wood Mackenzie forecasts 37% annual growth in 2020, with 18 GW of new solar installations expected. This is a 6% decrease from pre-pandemic forecasts.
Looking ahead, the U.S. solar market is expected to install nearly 100 GW from 2021-2025, a 42% increase in the amount of solar installed over the last five years.
Note: The Q3 2020 US Solar Market Insight covers installation volumes in Q2 2020 and forward-looking trends. The second quarter of 2020 was the first full quarter in which the US solar industry was exposed to the risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic. The forecasts in this report account for the coronavirus but are subject to uncertainty based on the unprecedented health, social and economic conditions in the United States.