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12 Reasons Why Solar Is Having an Explosive Year

Insights + Opinion

With a majority of Americans considering solar power to be their number one energy choice, it’s no wonder more households than ever before are going solar.

Today, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released the latest edition of the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, which revealed the first three months of 2015 as the best quarter for residential solar system installations—ever.

The first three months of this year were the best on record for residential solar. Photo credit: Clean Power Finance/Mike Stough

In fact, solar represented a whopping 51 percent of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the first quarter (Q1) of 2015, outpacing even natural gas.

The U.S. installed 1,306 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in Q1 2015, marking the sixth consecutive quarter in which the U.S. added more than one gigawatt (GW) of PV installations.

Residential solar led the way, growing by 76 percent over the first quarter of 2014, with 437 megawatts (MW) of residential PV installations. That’s an 11 percent jump over last quarter, the market segment’s previous high-water mark.

But the other solar market segments showed strength, too. In fact, the industry as a whole is on track for another record year in 2015, with 66,440 total individual solar systems coming on-line this quarter. That means nearly 700,000 systems are now generating solar power in the U.S.

The non-residential segment installed 225 MW in the first quarter of the year, with five of the six largest non-residential state markets growing over Q1 2014.

Continuing to carry the largest share of the market, the utility segment installed 644 MW which represents 49 percent of new PV capacity brought on-line in Q1 2015. Despite this being the smallest quarter for the segment since 2013, utility PV installations have now surpassed 500 MW for eight consecutive quarters. What’s more, the report notes that there are now 25 project developers with projects in development of 100 MW or more.

Here are some other key findings from the report:

  • The U.S. installed 1,306 MW of solar PV in Q1 2015, marking the sixth consecutive quarter in which the U.S. added more than 1 GW of PV installations.
  • The residential and utility PV market segments each added more capacity than the natural gas industry brought on-line in Q1 2015.
  • Collectively, more than 51 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. came from solar in Q1 2015.
  • 66,440 individual solar systems came online in Q1 2015, bringing the total to nearly 700,000 nationwide.
  • The average cost for a residential solar system is now $3.48/watt, 10 percent lower than this time last year.
  • More than one-third of all community solar installations have come on-line since 2014.
  • More than 5 GW of centralized PV has now been procured by utilities based on solar’s economic competitiveness with fossil-fuel alternatives.
  • Through Q1 2015, nearly one-fourth of cumulative residential solar installations have now come on-line without any state incentive.
  • PV installations are forecast to reach 7.9 GW in 2015, up 27 percent over 2014. Growth will occur in all segments, but will be most rapid in the residential market.
  • 2014 was the largest year ever for concentrating solar power, with 767 MW brought on-line. The next notable CSP project slated for completion is SolarReserve’s 110 MW Crescent Dunes, which entered the commissioning phase in 2014 and is expected to become fully operational before the end of 2015.

Today’s report proves just how effective establishing and maintaining forward-looking public policies, like the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), are to the industry.

The ITC has helped solar to become the fastest-growing renewable energy source in America. Why? Simply put, the ITC provides important market certainty, encouraging companies to make long-term investments that drive competition and technological innovation, while lowering costs to consumers.

But the best is yet to come. By the end of 2016, the U.S. will be generating enough clean solar energy to power 8 million homes, helping to offset 45 million metric tons of damaging carbon emissions—the equivalent of removing 10 million cars off our roads and highways.

No matter how you look at it, that’s a win all the way around!

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