North America passed another milestone in the shift from carbon to post-carbon energy, as the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) announced that the 7.3 gigawatts of solar PV installed in 2015 beat out the year’s additions in natural gas capacity, accounting for 29.5% of the country’s new electric generating capacity.
The U.S. solar market grew 17% over 2014, SEIA reported, led by California, North Carolina, Nevada, Massachusetts, and New York.
“We’re only getting started,” SEIA President Rhone Resch boasted. “Over the next few years,” he added, “we’re going to see solar reach unprecedented heights as our nation makes a shift toward a carbon-free source of energy that also serves as an economic job-creating engine.”
GTM Research, which produced the numbers in the report, earlier predicted that the extension of a 30% federal tax credit for solar installations in late 2015 would push installations to 20 gigawatts annually by 2020. Nevada’s place among the leaders may not last, however, after its Public Utilities Commission hit the state’s 17,000 residential solar users with retroactive charges.
The residential sector led 2015’s national solar expansion, the report found, growing “66% year-over-year and, for the first time, eclipsed the 2-gigawatt mark,” to account for 29% of the national solar market. Utility-scale installations grew 6%, representing more than half of all new solar PV capacity.
“Cumulative U.S. solar PV installations have now topped 25 gigawatts,” the report added, “up from just 2 gigawatts in 2010.”