US to become third-largest PV market in 2014

The U.S. solar industry will become the third-largest in the world next year as a growing appetite for PV pushes the country’s pipeline of planned projects to 43 GW, finds the latest United States Deal Tracker report from NPD Solarbuzz.

This figure represents growth of 7% in the space of 12 months, and means that 2014 will see the U.S. become the third-largest market for PV installations, just behind China and Japan. Previously, the report finds, the U.S.’s PV pipeline was dominated by projects of 100 MW or more, whereas current and future growth is being driven by smaller projects less than 30 MW in size.

"The increase in new solar PV projects being planned or under construction is driving double-digit annual growth forecasts for PV adoption within the United States," said NPD Solarbuzz senior analyst, Michael Barker. "Large-scale PV projects exceeding 20 MW continue to dominate the pipeline, in terms of installed capacity, stimulated by state-based renewable portfolio mandates. Projects of all sizes have become increasingly viable, due to declines in solar PV system pricing in the past year."

Changing status

More than half – 63.1% – of the 43 GW of U.S. PV projects in the pipeline are currently classed as ‘planned‘, with 23.9% in the pre-planning stage and 8.5% being installed. Transitioning through the stages of development – from pre-planning right up to installed status – has been fast-tracked among many developers due to a 2017 deadline to qualify for full Investment Tax Credits (ITC) of 30%.

According to NPD Solarbuzz, this deadline has catalyzed a wider appetite for smaller PV projects that can be completed in shorter timescales. "With just three years remaining until the full tax credit incentive rate declines, solar PV project developers in the U.S. are now planning to complete projects, or have a significant proportion under construction, prior to the 2017 deadline," said NPD Solarbuzz analyst Christine Beadle.

Projects with capacity below 30 MW have blossomed in recent months, increasing by 33% to now number approximately 2,100 – representing nearly 50% of the entire U.S. pipeline.

At the upper end, the ten largest PV projects in the U.S. will account for more than 5 GW of solar capacity to be installed over the next three years, which include the Mount Signal Solar project, Copper Mountain and Calexico.