Surging Solar Energy: Top 5 States

Solar energy installation in the US is forecast to double in five years, with states such as California and North Carolina leading the way.

Highlights of Solar Report

  • Total installed PV capacity in the US expected to double over the next five years
  • Flat growth of PV installations in 2018 vs. 2017
  • In H1 2018, 29% of all new electricity capacity online in the US came from solar PV
  • For a second consecutive quarter, the residential PV sector was flat on both a year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter basis – an encouraging sign of market stabilization after a year in which the market contracted 15%.

The US is expected to more than double its solar energy over the next five years, never mind that President Trump’s tariffs have cooled the industry.

Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Buoyed by slumping solar module prices – the second lowest in history even with the addition of a 30 percent tariff – the nation could see more than 14 GWdc of photovoltaic capacity installed each year by 2023, according to a report by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“The data shows us that the tariffs have dampened solar’s growth, as previously announced projects were canceled or delayed due to the tariffs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO.

“Yet, this report also reveals that the solar industry is simply too strong to be kept down. Procurement numbers show that solar is poised for substantial growth.”

In fact, the solar market saw signs of turnaround in Q2 2018 after experiencing a tumultuous few quarters since the government last year began considering tariffs on imported solar modules.

In Q2 2018, the US market installed 2.3 GWdc of solar PV, a 9% year-over-year decrease and a 7% quarter-over-quarter decrease, despite the fact that module prices fell sharply in Q2 due to lower demand in China.

Looking ahead though, the report forecasts an acceleration of solar deployment in the second half of 2018 driven by utility-scale projects.

“Once lower-than-expected module tariffs were announced in January 2018, developers and utilities began announcing new projects,” Wood Mackenzie Senior Analyst Colin Smith writes in the report.

“As we move toward 2019, we expect to see continued procurement growth as developers look to secure projects they can bring online before the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) steps down to 10 percent in 2022.”

The report projects a flat 2018 for the solar market as a whole.

Most of the utility solar being procured today will come online in the 2020 timeframe. By then, 28 states in the U.S. are expected to be adding at least 100 megawatts of solar annually, and 25 states will have more than 1 gigawatt of solar PV — compared with only two states at that capacity in 2010.

FIGURE: U.S. Utility PV Pipeline
Source: Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables

Here’s a look at the top 5 US states in terms of cumulative solar capacity. The figures come from the latest US Solar Market Insight Report from Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables and the SEIA.

  1. California remains the leader when it comes to solar power in the US, with almost 23 GW of installed solar. Nearly 17 percent of California’s electricity comes from solar, with the sector employing more than 86,000 people.
  2. North Carolina is second with almost 4.5 GW of installed solar. Described as a “leader in utility-scale solar,” there are more than 7,600 solar jobs in North Carolina and 8,381 solar installations.
  3. Arizona places third with more than 3.6 GW of installed solar capacity. Over 530,000 homes there are powered by solar, and just over 6 percent of its electricity comes from solar.
  4. Nevada is fourth with 2.66 GW of solar capacity. The state boasts of “numerous utility-scale, residential and commercial solar projects”, according to the report. There are 30,207 solar installations, 82 solar companies and 6,564 solar jobs in Nevada.
  5. Texas at fifth place is home to a growing solar sector with more than 2.6 GW of solar capacity. In fact, solar energy powers over 300,000 homes and employs just under 9,000 people in the state.

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Panorama of downtown san diego at night from across the bay