As it did for many industries, last year posed big challenges for U.S. solar. Overall, and within several sectors, the industry lost ground, but it did experience some positive trends. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), growth is projected to continue in the years ahead.
SEIA released its year-end Solar Market Insight Report on March 9, 2023. According to the report, the United Stated installed 20.2 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic capacity last year. This represented a decline of 16% from 2021. Other metrics also point to negative growth. For example, utility-scale installations fell by 31% from the previous year. Commercial solar installations fell, too, although by only 6%. Community solar installations fell by 16% from 2021.
A number of factors contributed to these declines, including the supply-chain delays that affected nearly every industry that relied on imports in 2022. Also last year, the federal Department of Commerce initiated its anti-circumnavigation investigations. These investigations focused on imports of solar equipment from several Asian countries to determine if they were circumventing existing antidumping and countervailing tariffs on imports of solar equipment from China.
Chinese imports were further constrained last year when U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained imports of solar equipment under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. This law is designed to address abusive working conditions by prohibiting the importation of materials, including solar equipment, manufactured in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.
Despite all these challenges, the solar industry still saw some bright spots in 2022. For example, the 20.2 GW of installed capacity, although a year-to-year decline, still accounted for 50% of all new electricity-generating capacity added in the United States. That represented the largest annual share in the history of solar and the fourth consecutive year that the industry occupied the top spot for new electric capacity installations.
Also in 2022, residential solar had a record year with nearly 6 GW of installations. This represented 40% growth from 2021.
Overall, SEIA forecasts more strong growth in the years ahead, in large part because of the incentives included in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. The organization projects the industry to grow by a factor of more than 500% over the next 10 years, from the current 142.3 GW of total installed capacity to more than 700 GW of capacity by 2033.