Solar dominates new U.S. power generation in Q1 2016


The U.S. solar market got off to a strong start in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). According to the latest version of the organizations’ U.S. Solar Market Insight, the United States installed 1.66 GW-DC of solar PV during the first three months of 2016, a 24% increase over the first quarter of 2015.

Solar represented 64% of all new electricity generation capacity that came online in the United States during this period. This is more than double the portion over the course of 2015, despite the fact that the first quarter is usually the slowest of the year.

GTM Research and SEIA say that this is just the beginning. Driven in part by projects planned to take advantage of the U.S. solar investment tax credit (ITC) before a surprise extension last December, the organizations expect the U.S. solar market to grow 94% to 14.5 GW-DC over the course of 2016.

This will be dominated by the 10 GW-DC of utility solar which is expected to come online. And despite setbacks in a few state markets, the organizations also expect increases in both residential PV and the “non-residential” sector due to policy victories for distributed PV and community solar.

Another theme in the report is the increasing geographical diffusion of solar markets, particularly for utility solar. GTM Research says that some states in the Southeast where very little PV has been installed to date are expecting more than 10-fold growth in capacity this year due to cheap power purchase agreements.

However, the top three markets remained the same during Q1: California, North Carolina and Massachusetts, with Nevada remaining the fourth-largest despite carnage in the stat’e distributed solar market due to the dismantling of its net metering policy.

Solar procurement strategies are also changing, and the report counts more than 1 GW-DC of offsite solar projects in development, including both community solar and offsite utility-scale solar.