The second quarter was another strong one for the U.S. solar market. With the industry gaining momentum and ten states shining in the first quarter, the market continued to see steady growth in both residential and non-residential installations in spring according to the latest quarterly report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
High upfront costs, varying incentives and metering debates stalling residential growth have long been barriers to the growth of the industry. However, as panels have become far more affordable and efficient in recent years, the market has grown to a cumulative solar capacity of more than 15 GWdc, and is rapidly approaching the capacity of mainstream forms of energy production.
According to the SEIA's report, this benchmark growth is thanks to three consecutive quarters in which more than 1 GWdc was installed across the nation. In the second quarter, this meant a 21% increase in installed PV over the second quarter of 2013. Solar installations beat all other forms of energy production for the most installed capacity in the quarter with 53% of new generating capacity from solar power.
For the first time in SEIA's records, more than 100 MWdc of solar power went on-line in one quarter without state incentives. Although solar is steadily growing across the board, PV still leads in new installations across multiple sectors.
Here are some PV highlights in the second quarter by sector from the report:
Residential PV installations increased 45% year-over-year and up 2% from the first quarter. Of the 31 states tracked by SEIA, 22 grew in the second quarter with California accounting for 57% of installations nationwide. In Arizona, California and Massachusetts the market share of third-party-owned installations declined as loans for solar installations have become more readily available and upfront costs have come down. SEIA predicts the fastest market growth for PV will be in the residential sector in 2014.
Non-residential PV installations increased 16% year-over-year and 13% from the first quarter. Differing incentive levels state-to-state continues driving inconsistent growth in non-residential, but bright spots such as 370% quarter-over-quarter growth in Massachusetts have aided market rebound. While second quarter installations don’t match record growth experienced in the end of 2013, SEIA predicts market leaders such as Massachusetts, California, and New York will push non-residential PV growth in the second half of the year. According to SEIA, developing and financing small-scale commercial solar projects is still an exceptional challenge thanks to varying contracts, limited credit ratings, and site-specific project requirements.
Approximately 625 MWdc of utility PV was installed in the second quarter, which drove more than 50% of PV installation for the fifth consecutive quarter. Of the 62 utility projects across the US, the four largest made up most of the increased capacity totaling 476 MWdc. Utility PV nationwide in amidst a market transition from centralized development to more small-scale projects. Overall, utility PV has quadrupled in cumulative installations between the first half of 2012 and the first half of 2014.
With PV installation in each sector at least doubling in capacity over the past two years and dramatic increase in the cost competitiveness of solar, it's hard to argue against PV's permeating mainstream energy production. SEIA forecasts PV installations will reach 6.5 GWdc in 2014, which would mean a 36% increase over 2013 and more than tripling market size three years ago.
View the full report from SEIA here >>