Solar installs grow 43 percent in Q2 2016, but long-term questions emerge in each segment

solar installations increase

Don’t miss my Biggie Smalls reference in the copy below.

Growing 43 percent year-over-year, the U.S. saw 2,051 MW of solar photovoltaics installed in Q2 2016. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report, this marks the eleventh consecutive quarter in which more than 1 GW of PV was installed, driven largely by the utility-scale sector.

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This record-breaking installation total marks the beginning of an unprecedented wave of growth that will occur throughout the remainder of 2016, specifically within the utility PV segment. With more than 10 GWdc of utility PV currently under construction, the second half of this year and the first half of 2017 are on track to continue setting new records for solar capacity additions.

But as Biggie once told us, with mo’ money comes mo’ problems. During that same stretch, new storylines across each segment emerged that will not only shape the next 12 months, but which have also raised questions about the long-term drivers of continued growth. GTM lists those as:

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• Utility PV: The timing of the federal ITC extension in December 2015 has complicated the development timeline for the more than 18.5 GWdc of utility PV installations that would have attempted to interconnect in 2016 had the ITC not been extended. While 7.8 GWdc are expected to come on-line in 2H 2016, 5.7 GWdc will spill over into 2017 and an additional 3 GWdc will be pushed out beyond 2017. In turn, more than 65 percent of the 2017 utility PV installation forecast is expected to stem from project spillover.

• Non-residential PV: For the non-residential PV segment, the major state markets are transitioning toward more diversity in types of project development. Self-consumption projects that avoid system-size limits set under net metering programs and new community solar programs are countering continued weakness in the non-residential rooftop solar. Most notably, community solar programs in California and the Northeast are on track to drive over 100 MWdc of community solar for the first time ever on an annual basis.

• Residential PV: The residential solar market is experiencing different storylines across major and emerging state markets. In a handful of emerging state markets, quarterly growth rates are spiking as national installers tap into new regions that have reached grid parity, where the cost of customer acquisition remains cheap given the plethora of early-mover customers. Meanwhile, major state markets are continuing to grow, but at much slower rates compared to the past few years. Conversations with some installers suggest that the cost and length of customer acquisition are increasing as fewer early mover customers remain, and this challenge is limiting growth, especially in California.

The quarterly report dives into all of this in much greater detail, and you’ll want to check it out for yourself here.

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