US residential installations outstrip commercial for first time ever, finds SEIA

A report from the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) and GTM Research has revealed that for the first time ever, residential PV installations outstripped commercial PV installations in the first quarter of 2014.

The Q1 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report also found that 1.33 GW of PV capacity was added across the U.S. in the first three months of the year. For the residential sector, a combined figure of 232 MW was just enough to push the market above commercial, which could only add 225 MW of PV capacity.

However, both GTM Research and SEIA expect this dip to be temporary, with commercial forecast to outperform residential for the remaining three quarters of the year. A strong solar leasing market and lower systems costs have helped drive the residential sector, which is still on course for further growth throughout the year, the researchers believe.

On the utility scale, PV capacity grew 171% year-on-year, with 873 MW installed in Q1 2014 – two-thirds of the overall total. "Solar accounted for 74% of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in Q1 2014, further signaling the rapidly increasing roles that solar is playing in the energy market," said GTM Research senior VP, Shayle Kann. "Expect to see a resurgence in the non-residential market, combined with continued incremental residential growth throughout the rest of the year."

Over the course of the year, the U.S. in on course to install 6.6 GW of PV capacity, say the researchers, which is up 39% on last year.

SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch was bullish at the findings, recalling that the industry now pumps some $15 billion a year in the U.S. economy. "Solar energy is also providing a big boost for our environment," he added. "The 14,800 MW of solar currently installed in the U.S. can generate enough pollution-free electricity to displace 18 billion pounds of coal or 1.8 billion gallons of gasoline. Solar can be a real game changer."