The U.S. solar market has posted its biggest first quarter in history, with installations totalling 2.7 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity in the first three months of 2019. It’s a bright start to the year for the solar industry, which continues to thrive as the demand for renewable energy sources grows rapidly.
This information regarding first quarter growth for the solar industry comes courtesy of a report from Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The below graphic highlights the strength of this first quarter and the exponential growth of installed solar capacity in the United States over the past decade.
Although the installed capacity in 2019 Q1 is down from the capacity installed in Q4 2018, Wood MacKenzie and the SEIA expect further growth for the solar market throughout the rest of the year. Most of this first quarter installed capacity came in the shape of utility PV installations with 1.6 GW of installations, comprising 61% of the new solar installed in Q1. With a massive 4.7 GW of large-scale solar projects in the construction stage, it’s projected to be a particularly strong year for utility PV, as outlined in the image below. This data shows that there could be growth up to as much as 46% for the utility PV sector.
Elsewhere, while it was a relatively low-key quarter overall for residential solar installations, which saw a small 6% increase on the previous Q1, 29% of this newly installed residential solar capacity came from outside the top ten solar states in the U.S. This certainly indicates that the residential solar sector is continuing to bloom, spreading further into those solar locations around the country which have yet to reach their potential.
For non-residential solar, it was a slightly disappointing quarter. Non-residential projects - commercial, industrial, and public sector-distributed solar - saw a decrease from both this point last year and Q4 of 2018. However, Wood Mackenzie and the SEIA have projected from their report that new community solar mandates in places like New York and New Jersey will boost the installed capacity of non-residential projects in the near future.
Considering this strong first quarter showing for the solar sector, Wood Mackenzie forecasts 25% growth in 2019. This growth is expected to arrive in the shape of 13 GW of newly-installed solar throughout the year.
By Shane Croghan