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The U.S. solar market continued its years-long expansion in the second quarter of 2017 as the industry installed 2,387 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV), the largest total in a second quarter to date. This tops Q1’s total and represents an 8 percent year-over-year gain, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said in the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report.

“This report shows once again that solar is on the rise and will continue to add to its share of electricity generation,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Last year, solar companies added jobs 17 times faster than the rest of the economy and increased our GDP by billions of dollars. We are going to continue to fight for policies that allow the industry to continue this phenomenal growth.”

All three U.S. solar market segments—commercial, residential and utility-scale—experienced quarter-over-quarter growth in Q2. The U.S. installed 2,044 MW of capacity in Q1. The non-residential and utility-scale market segments also posted year-over-year growth.

FIGURE: U.S. Quarterly PV Installations Q1 2012-Q2 2017

GTM Research / SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, Q3 2017

The non-residential market grew a robust 31 percent year-over-year, with 437 MW installed. That was driven in large part by favorable time-of-use rates in California, expiring incentives in Massachusetts, and a record-breaking quarter in New York, where a number of remote, net metered projects were completed.

Joining those states in the top 10 for additions in Q2 were long-time solar leaders such as Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina, as well as surprises like Minnesota and Mississippi, which had the 5th and 9th largest markets in the quarter, respectively. Texas, which is projected to be the second largest state solar market over the next five years, had its strongest quarter ever, adding 378 MW in Q2, placing it 2nd among states this quarter.

The utility-scale segment represented 58 percent of the PV capacity installed in the quarter. In fact, Q2 marked the seventh straight quarter in which the U.S. added more than a gigawatt (GW) of utility-scale solar.

According to the report, 563 MW of residential solar PV was installed in the U.S. in the second quarter of the year. While this is a slight uptick over the first quarter, it represents a 17 percent decline year-over-year.

“Slowdown in residential solar is largely a function of national installers scaling back operations in major state markets as they prioritize profitability over growth,” explained GTM Research Solar Analyst Austin Perea. “While California was the first major market to exhibit signs of slow-down in Q1, many major Northeast markets began to feel the impact of national installer pull-back in Q2 despite a stable policy environment and strong market fundamentals.”

The report forecast that the solar industry will add 12.4 GW of new capacity this year, down slightly from GTM Research’s previous forecast of 12.6 GW.

The report did not change its forecast that the American solar industry would triple cumulative capacity over the next five years.

However, trade relief, which is being considered by the U.S. International Trade Commission, could radically affect the solar outlook and “would result in a substantial downside revision to our forecast for all three segments,” the analysis said.

In a June report, GTM Research said that the requested floor price, if approved, would cut cumulative demand in half over the next five years. SEIA says the petition could cause the solar industry to shed 88,000 jobs just in 2018. Last year, U.S. solar companies added 51,000 workers.

Key Findings

  • In Q2 2017, the U.S. market installed 2,387 MWdc of solar PV, an 8 percent increase year-over-year and the largest second quarter ever.
  • Through the first half of 2017, 22 percent of all new electric capacity brought online in the U.S. has come from solar, ranking second over that time period to natural gas.
  • Suniva’s filing of a Section 201 petition to impose trade remedies on foreign-manufactured cells and modules threatens to significantly reduce PV installations across all segments if accepted in its current form.
  • The residential sector grew 1percent quarter-over-quarter. The slow growth rate is caused by relative weakness in the California market and a slowdown in Northeast markets, which are feeling the impact of the pull-back from national providers.
  • In contrast to residential PV, the non-residential sector grew 31 percent year-over-year primarily driven by regulatory demand pull-in from policy deadlines in California and Massachusetts.
  • Voluntary procurement has emerged as the primary driver of new utility PV procurement, accounting for 59 percent of new procurement through H1 2017.
  • Installed system prices remain low across all market segments, with fixed-tilt utility-scale systems remaining under the $1/watt barrier for the second consecutive quarter.
  • GTM Research forecasts that 12.4 GWdc of new PV installations will come on-line in 2017.
  • Total installed U.S. solar PV capacity is expected to nearly triple over the next five years. By 2022, 31 states will have more than 100 MW annual solar markets—with 25 states being home to more than 1 GW of capacity—and more than 16 GW of solar PV capacity will be installed annually.
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By Dan Whitten

First Solar held a commissioning event last week on a 250-megawatt solar facility on the Moapa River Indian Reservation. This is the first utility-scale solar project on tribal lands.

By Dan Whitten

First Solar held a commissioning event last week on a 250-megawatt solar facility on the Moapa River Indian Reservation. This is the first utility-scale solar project on tribal lands.


Morgan Stanley put together this cool video on the project as part of their series on sustainable solutions called Capital Creates Change and we wanted to share it with you. It highlights the economic opportunity, the jobs and the clean power that utility scale developers are bringing to Indian Country and to Southern Nevada.

Late last year, I was lucky enough to attend a ribbon cutting at NextEra Energy’s Silver State South project, a 250-megawatt project developed and built by First Solar at the southern tip of Nevada, on the California border line. Eight years ago, when developers began surveying the Silver State South site, they couldn’t have known what the world or even that little corner of the Nevada and California border would look like in terms of solar adoption. But they did know major change was afoot.

Back then, solar accounted for one hundredth of one percent of the nation’s power generation and it was considered by some to be the costliest form of electricity.

In hindsight, the project goes a long way toward explaining the phenomena we are seeing in solar energy today. First off, the region now boasts 1,200 megawatts of solar electricity, which is the size of two big coal plants and no emissions, a fact that helps explain why our greenhouse gas emissions as a nation are lower than they have been in more than two decades.

The Moapa Southern Paiute Solar project continues a trend in Nevada that has seen utility scale grow by leaps and bounds and with it has come thousands of jobs. Economies of scale evident from solar adoption help explain why the cost of solar has dropped by about 70 percent in the last eight years.

And while the utility scale revolution is taking hold in the West, policies governing rooftop solar in Nevada have crippled that segment of our industry and the many benefits that a healthy distributed generation market can provide for our electrical grid. The model is in place for many thousands of megawatts of clean electricity in the West and the hundreds and thousands of jobs that come with it.

The key is making sure there is a welcoming policy environment for continued growth of large scale solar, with triggers that can help distributed solar take pressure off the grid.

[facebook https://www.facebook.com/EcoWatch/videos/1454350374577895/ expand=1]

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After eight years of work, the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) will effectively foreclose development of renewable energy resources on millions of acres of federally managed lands in Southern California, said a coalition of renewable energy and labor groups in response to the federal government's release of the plan. The plan abandons the initial promise to balance renewable development with preservation of desert land.

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), the California Wind Energy Association, the California & Nevada State Association of Electrical Workers, Large-scale Solar Association (LSA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said the plan will significantly and permanently limit solar and wind energy development on these public lands, and could hamstring existing state and federal environmental goals, as well as any future, more ambitious goals that could engender further growth of the clean energy economy.

After eight years of work, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) will effectively foreclose development of renewable energy resources on millions of acres of federally managed lands in Southern California, said a coalition of renewable energy and labor groups in response to the federal government’s release of the plan. The plan abandons the initial promise to balance renewable development with preservation of desert land.

The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is located in east Riverside County, California on 3,600 acres of federal land.First Solar, Inc.

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), the California Wind Energy Association, the California & Nevada State Association of Electrical Workers, Large-scale Solar Association (LSA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said the plan will significantly and permanently limit solar and wind energy development on these public lands, and could hamstring existing state and federal environmental goals, as well as any future, more ambitious goals that could engender further growth of the clean energy economy.

Since the initiation of the DRECP in 2008, California has substantially increased its renewable energy and carbon reduction goals, and the Obama administration has declared even more ambitious plans to combat climate change. Unfortunately, the DRECP never changed to address the need for additional renewable energy.

“The DRECP has simply failed to adapt to enormous changes in law and policy that mandate a significant and urgent increase in renewable energy development on public lands and elsewhere,” said Shannon Eddy, executive director of LSA. “The DRECP issued by the BLM today is a Model T in a Tesla world. Rather than fostering sustainable clean energy development as a part of a conservation plan, it severely restricts wind and solar.”

The California desert is arguably the most important renewable energy resource area in the country, with world-class solar radiance and wind energy resources near major population centers.

“With today’s [Tuesday’s] release of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, the Interior Department and BLM missed a golden opportunity to balance the preservation of parts of the California desert with clean, renewable energy development across some of America’s richest renewable resource areas,” said Tom Kimbis, acting president of SEIA. “The Obama administration is unparalleled in its support for renewables, but this plan permanently locks up some of our greatest untapped solar and wind resources, and chooses regulation over innovation and progress.”

Of the nearly 11 million acres of public lands that the BLM studied as part of the DRECP, the final plan sets aside less than 388,000 acres for renewable energy development, much of which BLM acknowledges is not appropriate for solar and wind projects.

The plan also punts identification of additional lands for renewable energy development to an elusive “Phase 2.” The groups expect little coordination between the BLM and counties since the focus will be on private lands, and renewable energy developers doubt that the next phase will yield the lands necessary to meet long-term energy and climate goals.

Approximately three million acres that had been available for solar and wind development are rendered off-limits under the plan. “No one is saying that utility-scale renewable energy should go everywhere, but done responsibly and with safeguards, it does have to go somewhere if we are to meet state, national and global carbon-reduction goals,” said Nancy Rader, executive director of CalWEA. “The broad-scale ban on wind-energy development represented by the BLM’s plan indicates an unwillingness to confront the reality of our climate-change predicament.”

The groups also highlight the squandered opportunity to create jobs and economic growth associated with utility scale renewable development. From research and development to manufacturing and construction, solar and wind projects have created 100,000 jobs to date nationwide.

“The plan misses an opportunity to put thousands of people to work in high-paying jobs,” Richard Samaniego, secretary-treasurer of the California State Association of Electrical Workers, said.

“It is disappointing that the plan does not reflect better balance,” added Gregory Wetstone, president and chief executive officer of ACORE. “We can protect desert habitat without effectively prohibiting pollution-free wind and solar energy development on millions of acres of the planet’s best renewable resources.”

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