Solar supplied nearly two-thirds of new generating capacity in the United States in the first three months of the year, adding more new capacity than coal, natural gas, and nuclear combined, according to a report last week by Greentech Media and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The 1.665 GW of solar capacity represented 64% of new generation across the country.
“This growth builds off the momentum of a record 2015, in which solar exceeded natural gas capacity additions on an annual basis for the first time ever,” Greentech reports. Through the end of this year, the report projects, “the U.S. solar industry will install an unprecedented 14.5 gigawatts of capacity, a 94% jump over the 7.5 gigawatts in capacity installed in 2015.”
The first quarter of 2016 was the tenth in a row that saw the U.S. install more than a gigawatt of photovoltaics, notes GTM Research Marketing Manager Mike Munsell.
“The solar industry is growing at warp speed, driven by the fact that solar is one of the lowest-cost options for electricity,” said SEIA Interim President Tom Kimbis. “It’s being embraced by people who both care about the environment and want access to affordable and reliable electricity.”
He added that, “while it took us 40 years to hit one million U.S. solar installations, we’re expected to hit two million within the next two years.”
Utility-scale solar will account for more than 10 GW of new capacity coming online this year, with another 4.5 GW in progress and expected to enter production in 2017. “While a number of policy- and customer-driven bottlenecks continue to challenge the market, a handful of state policies established over the past half-year should unlock new customer-sited and offsite development,” said GTM’s associate director of U.S. solar, Cory Honeyman, “with Fortune 500 corporate customers playing a key role in supporting the market’s rebound.”
Residential solar ran into “some net-metering reform hurdles,” Greentech reports, but “continued its track record of quarterly growth.”