On the bright side, report finds residential solar won't decline this year
- Residential solar capacity installations are expected to remain stable this year, compared with last. Following a 15% decline in 2017, Greentech Media (GTM) analysts say that's "actually pretty good news" for an industry which has faced uncertainty.
- GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association collaborated on a new assessment, concluding the industry is off to a relatively strong start in 2018. In total the solar industry added 2.5 GW in the first three months, an annual growth of about 13%.
- Residential solar installations previously declined for four consecutive quarters, but the sector now "shows some signs of improvement over 2017," according to the report. Non-residential solar installations were off by more than a third, quarter-over-quarter.
After four consecutive quarters of declining capacity installations, the industry takes wins where it can.
The U.S. Solar Market Insight report finds that the residential PV sector "was essentially flat on a year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter basis," adding that "residential PV shows some signs of improvement over 2017." Overall, more than half of the new generating capacity brought online in Q1 in the United States was solar.
On the other hand, the first quarter was not so rosy for utility-scale projects. "Coming off its largest quarter ever," non-residential installations were down 34% in Q1, despite 23% year-over-year growth. "Regulatory demand pull-in from looming policy deadlines in California and the Northeast – in addition to the continued build-out of a robust community solar pipeline in Minnesota – are the leading growth factors," the report said.
GTM Research senior solar analyst Austin Perea told GTM that "coming off a year in which we saw such a downturn and consistent quarterly contraction, the news that the residential solar space was flat in Q1 is actually pretty good news."
The sector has faced uncertainty, in part due to 30% tariffs on imported crystaline silicon photovoltaic modules and cells. But before the tariffs went into place the solar industry lost 24,000 jobs last year — about 6% of the workforce — as the industry installed about 30% less in 2017 than it had the year before.
In a report last year, GTM painted a pessimistic picture of the solar industry based on a range of possible tariffs. Now, the firm says it is forecasting "flat growth" this year versus last, with another 10.8 GW DC of new solar capacity installations expected.
The report predicts total installed U.S. photovoltaic capacity is expected to more than double over the next five years, and by 2023 annual installations will top 14 GW DC.
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