US module shipments spiked in quantity, plunged in price amid pandemic


From pv magazine USA

The latest edition of the the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Solar Photovoltaic Module Shipments Report shows that, after a slow start to 2020, a record amount of modules were shipped in March. Amid Covid-19, however, April shipments dropped off considerably.

Manufacturers shipped around 2.05 GW of modules in March, breaking the previous monthly record of 1.96 GW, set in December 2019. The success was short-lived and all but certainly virally interrupted, as in April, that shipment figure plummeted nearly 50% to 1.24 GW – the lowest mark since November 2019. Even in a downturn, March and April continued the streak of more than 1 GW shipped, which has happened every month since May 2019.

Year of fluctuation

This consistent uptick in shipment coincides with both the ITC step-down that began in 2020. In terms of the ITC, projects were able to quality for the full 30% ITC if they started physical work by the end of 2019, while developers were able to lock in the 30% ITC through a safe harbor provision, by paying for 5% or more of the cost of a project. Considering that modules represent more than 5% of total project costs, securing modules was a safe way to ensure the full ITC.

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In March, California led the way with 693 MW of modules shipped, followed by Tennessee, which shipped 144 MW. Rounding out the top five for March comes Massachusetts with 128 MW, Texas with 108 MW, and New Jersey with 99 MW.

In April, the leaders were California with 418 MW, Massachusetts with 102 MW, Tennessee with 74 MW, Florida with 48 MW, and Idaho with 40 MW. It should be noted that the April shipment data for Texas has been withheld thus far.

Price per watt

March and April also featured the lowest cost per watt in the history of the report. Both months featured an average cost per peak watt of $0.37, edging out the previous record of $.038, set in June 2019. The mark is also down considerably from February’s average price of $0.46 cost per watt, which was likely due to fears of pandemic-related supply chain disruptions.

The $0.09 drop in average price from February to March is the largest one-month margin of decrease since March-April of 2017, when the average price fell from $0.66 to $0.42 per watt

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