Three vastly divergent US solar deployment projections


From pv magazine USA

On Dec. 1, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that the United States could install 178 GW of renewables capacity from 2022 to the end of 2026. Just a few weeks earlier, S&P Global Market Intelligence published a report projecting that the United States could install 71 GW of wind and solar power in 2022 alone. Rystad Energy, meanwhile, has said that it expects 50% of global utility-scale solar projects to be potentially cancelled or postponed.

According to the IEA’s Renewables 2021 report, 2021 will be a record peak deployment year for the US market, with more than 39 GW of new wind and solar capacity additions. But beyond this record year, the IEA expects a downward trajectory for deployment.

In every year from 2022 to 2026, the IEA sees 26.6 GW, 28 GW, 29 GW, 25.6 GW, and 26.9 GW of solar power being deployed, respectively. In total, it estimates that 270 GW of solar capacity could be installed by the end of 2026 – nearly three times the 100 GW currently deployed by January of this year.

The IEA also included an “accelerated” deployment projection for the next five years, which would add 53.7 GW of capacity to its estimate. This addition would raise deployment projections from 178 GW to 231 GW of utility and distributed solar, plus onshore and offshore wind. These numbers may appear optimistic, but the group has long been known to publish laughably underestimated solar capacity growth estimates.

On an upward path, S&P sees potential for 44 GW of solar and 27 GW of new wind in 2022. The first year of its projected capacity increase is equivalent to nearly 40% of the five-year IEA growth estimates. In 2023, the S&P anticipates that solar will increase by nearly 33%, while wind capacity deployments will remain flat or slightly decline. Combined, S&P believes that we will see 156 GW of combined wind and solar additions in 2022 and 2023 – that’s 87% of the IEA’s five-year projection, in just two years.

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Since the release of S&P’s report, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Build Back Better/Reconciliation package. S&P has said that if the package gets through the Senate with the main solar incentives in place, some of its 2022 solar volume projections could be delayed to 2023 or 2024.

Sitting amongst all of these cheery projections is one research firm that suggests that supply challenges could have a massive, negative impact on 2022. Rystad Energy has said that it believes that increases to supply chain prices, along with shipping costs, could lead to the postponement or cancellation of up to 50% of the world’s projected 90 GW of utility-scale solar projects.

The company notes that polysilicon prices have increased by more than 300%, and shipping costs for containers have grown by more than 500%. These increases have added $0.06-$0.08/kWh to the cost of solar panels. Roughly 75% of the United State’s 2022 capacity projections are expected to come from utility-scale projects.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Jenny Chase, meanwhile, is pushing her own team to increase their solar power projections. “There is always at least a bit more solar than you think there is,” she said, while concurrently calling out the IEA for its small numbers.

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