The United States saw its second largest level of solar installations in any quarter during the final three months of 2017, according to the latest estimates from GTM Research.
The research organization released an estimate that the United States has installed nearly 4 GW of solar at the Solar Power Northeast conference in Boston.
And while both this number and the full year numbers represent a year-over-year decline, this is mostly due to the spike in installations in 2016 from projects scheduled to come online before the expected drop-down of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC).
By segment, both residential and utility-scale solar installation volumes declined year-over-year, with residential installations falling 13% during 2017.
As we have been reporting, a large part of the decline in the residential segment came from the “pull-back” from Tesla/SolarCity and Vivint. Some of the biggest hits were seen in Northeast state market, with Massachusetts’ residential solar market falling 49%, and New York’s market declining 31%.
However the “non-residential” segment, where GTM Research lumps commercial and industrial (C&I), government, non-profit and community solar, grew year-over-year. Some of this is from the growth in community solar, led by Minnesota.
All in all, GTM Research reports that the nation has now reached 54.5 GW of total solar installations. And looking forward, even with the expected 11% decline in installations over the next four years versus its base case, GTM Research expects that the United States will install more than 10 GW annually through 2022, and reach 115 GW installed in 2022.
One of the reasons for this outlook is the ongoing decline in the price of solar. While the Section 201 tariffs imposed by President Trump are expected to increase the cost of utility-scale solar up to 10%, GTM Research notes that solar prices fell 3-11% from Q3 2016 to Q3 2017, meaning that solar prices have merely been pushed back 18 months or so.
Looking forward, GTM Research notes that the Section 201 tariffs are far from the only policy concern. “There are probably things going on at the state level that are more impactful,” notes GTM Research Solar Market Analyst, Austin Perea.