Report: Solar Power Hits Milestone of $1 Per Watt, Continued Upward Trend Forecast

Published On
Jun 1, 2017

The support for alternative energies, and solar power in particular, remains strong. Renewable power technologies continue to achieve new efficiencies and to become more feasible. Recently, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research released its Q2 2017 Solar Market Insight Report, and it contains a milestone for solar power. For the first time, fixed-tilt utility-scale solar power systems dropped below $1 per watt. The SEIA noted that installed system prices continue to lower across all market segments.

In a statement regarding that particular report finding, Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA president and CEO, said solar power clearly remains on a strong upward trajectory.

“Solar is delivering more clean energy, adding jobs 17 times faster than the U.S. economy and creating tens of billions of dollars in investment," Hopper said. "With its cost-competitiveness, we know solar will continue to play a growing role in America’s energy portfolio.”

In the first quarter of 2017, the solar industry added 2,044 megawatts (MW) of new capacity. According to the SEIA, it is the sixth straight quarter in which the industry added more than 2 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) and more than 1 GW of utility-scale solar PV.

In other key points of the report, the SEIA observed a little bit of year-over-year slowing in the market. That 2,044 MW of Q1 installed solar PV is a 2 percent decline in growth rate from Q1 2016. Notably, the national residential rate fell 17 percent, and a contraction in California was primarily to blame. The report states residential solar power will fall year-over-year in the state, but it will remain the largest state market for residential solar.

Continuing with the drawbacks, GTM Research forecasts 12.6 GW of new solar PV installations in 2017, which would be a slowing of 16 percent. Non-residential, which includes commercial, industrial and community solar installations, grew 29 percent year-over-year, but was down 39 percent from a record high fourth quarter 2016.

It's worth considering, however, that 2016 was a record-breaking year for solar power, according to the SEIA. In addition, the SEIA noted much of 2017's new solar power capacity is "spill-over" from 2016 projects that were not completed because the federal investment tax credit was extended to 2019. Because of that looming expiration, the SEIA expects another utility-scale solar power boom, and GTM Research said in a release that the majority of utility solicitations are focused on maximizing the number of projects that can come online to take advantage of the tax credit.

On the bright side, the SEIA and GTM expect total installed U.S. solar PV capacity to almost triple by 2022, when the United States will have 17 GW of solar PV capacity if trends continue. After that, the report states, the United States will install more than 18 GW of solar capacity each year.

In an interesting quirk of the results, the report found there is a growing solar market in Minnesota, which almost doubled its community solar power in Q1 of 2017. Idaho and Indiana also saw uncharacteristic jumps in installations. And newcomers to the solar power boon, Utah, Texas, and South Carolina continued on their upward path.

Overall, the report finds that, despite the federal political climate and the uncertainty there, the solar power industry is still healthy, and the SEIA and GTM Research expect a bright future in solar power technology and markets.

About the Author

Timothy Johnson


Timothy Johnson is the former digital editor for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine.

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