2020 Could Mark the Tipping Point for U.S. Solar
The U.S. solar industry hit another milestone this year: There are now more than 20 gigawatts of solar capacity installed across the country, enough electricity to power 4.6 million households. The solar market continues to heat up, and bit by bit the technology is becoming a go-to source of new electricity capacity.
In the second quarter of 2015, the U.S. installed 1,393 megawatts of new solar capacity, according to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, the third highest quarterly total on record. That puts the country on track to install over 7,700 megawatts for 2015, which would break a new record for the most capacity ever installed in a single year.
Driving the expansion for solar are ongoing cost savings. System costs fell by an additional 6 to 11 percent year over year for the second quarter. In fact, solar costs are falling by an average of 2 to 6 percent each quarter.
The bulk of the installations came from utility-scale solar. As a key tax credit expires at the end of 2016, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), large-scale solar projects under development are at a record high. There are more than 5,000 megawatts currently under construction as developers rush to take advantage of the tax incentive before it lapses.
Of the 1,393 megawatts installed in the second quarter, 473 megawatts came from the residential market, a record high for that segment and 70 percent higher than the second quarter in 2014. As solar panels become cheaper, and financing becomes much more accessible — such as no up-front costs — more and more homeowners are choosing to go solar.