Strong Q2 numbers show the increasing competitiveness of U.S. solar

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released their quarterly solar market data for the United States today, showing a slight growth in both sequential and year-over-year installations to 1.393 GW.

This is the seventh sequential quarter that the nation has installed more than 1 GW of solar, pushing cumulative installations to over 20 GW. Market volumes have reached a level that is nearly an order of magnitude higher than only five years ago.

Underneath these headline numbers, the trends for the U.S. market look even better. Residential solar installations grew to a record 473 MW, with steady growth quarter to quarter. And while completions of non-residential capacity fell again, GTM Research expects the market to bounce back, particularly in 2016.

Utility-scale solar made up the difference, and much more is on the way. GTM Research counts 16.7 GW of U.S. solar PV projects with signed power contracts, 5.3 GW of which is under construction. Of the total, roughly 2/5 has been procured not because of environmental mandates, but economic considerations.

“Forty percent of them have landed power purchase agreements primarily because those projects are competitive with natural gas alternatives,” said GTM Research Senior Solar Analyst Cory Honeyman, one of the report’s authors.

“We’ve reached a point with the pricing of solar where it’s not just being bought to meet some environmental mandate. An increasing portion is being procured because of its cost.”

GTM Research expects growth in all sectors throughout the end of the year, and has forecast that the nation will install 7.7 GW of solar over the course of 2017.

This growth is expected to intensify in 2016, as developers rush to get projects completed to beat the drop-down of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to 10% at the end of 2016.

And while a crash is anticipated in 2017 if the ITC is not extended, GTM Research says this will be temporary. The company expects residential solar in particular to continue its path of growth despite challenges to net metering policies, many of which are driven by utilities.

“Net metering and rate design battles have resulted in mostly favorable outcomes for residential solar,” notes Honeyman. “Utility attacks have largely either been rejected or they have resulted in minimal impact.”

“There is a strong case for resilience in residential solar economics.”