2016 was a banner year for solar in the United States, with around 15 GW installed according to the estimates of various market analysts. This was particularly true for large solar, with IHS Markit estimating that the utility-scale and commercial and industrial (C&I) sectors made up 80% of market volume.
This boom has also been good to construction companies, whose workers put in long hours to get all of that solar online. Today IHS Markit has released its annual rankings of solar engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors, finding that Blattner Energy came out of relative obscurity to take the top spot. The Minnesota-based contractor was followed closely by First Solar, which was the top solar EPC in 2015. Swinerton Renewable Energy came in third, as it did in 2015.
“2016 was Blattner’s breakout year in PV, capitalizing on strong relationships with leading developers and independent power producers like NextEra Energy,” IHS Markit North America Solar Analyst Camron Barati told pv magazine.
IHS Markit notes that Blattner did well in the Western United States, including California and New Mexico, and was also highly active in Georgia. The firm notes that the top four EPCs all installed over 1 GW each during the year.
Among the top five First Solar is the only solar-specific EPC, as all of the others are construction firms that have gotten into solar as one of several businesses. This may be part of a long-term trend.
First Solar’s future construction work is expected to slow, as the company has stated that it is reducing its emphasis on development and EPC work to focus on manufacturing, including the move to its large-format Series 6 module. Additionally, SunPower fell out of the top five in 2016, after coming in second in 2015.
IHS has also observed that average project sizes are falling in 2017 from 2016, but expects them to rise again next year.
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