Trade case holds back solar growth, new report says
- It has now been eight consecutive quarters where the United States' solar market installed at least 2 GW of solar PV capacity, but industry proponents say installations are down as a result of higher prices and uncertainty surrounding a pending trade case.
- GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association issued the U.S. Solar Market Insight report today, finding 2,031 MW of PV was installed in the third quarter — a 51% drop year-over-year. Cumulative year-to-date comparison has solar capacity additions down 22% compared to this point last year, according to the analysis.
- Some of the slowdown is a result of uncertainty from a solar trade case, the report says. President Trump must make a recommendation of trade remedies by Jan. 26, after the International Trade Commission concluded SolarWorld and Suniva required import relief under a Section 201 investigation of the 1974 Trade Act.
The White House still has a month to determine what trade remedies will be used in the SolarWorld and Suniva case, possibly including tariffs as high as 35% for crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules. But industry watchers say the uncertainty in that case has already had an impact on installations.
"The solar industry is a resilient bunch, but this quarter shows us what happens when policy uncertainty becomes a disruptive factor: prices rise, supplies shift and the market reacts accordingly," SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement.
Hopper urged President Trump to "reject tariffs and allow solar to continue its amazing growth for the U.S. economy, national security and American families."
Utility-scale projects accounted for just over half of the quarter's installed capacity, but growth was on the non-residential side. That segment, which includes commercial and industrial businesses that install solar, nonprofits, and community solar programs, grew 22% year-over-year, the report found, and installed 481 MW in the third quarter. According to the report, 4 GW of utility-scale PV projects are now under construction in the United States, and an additional 3.9 GW will come on-line by the end of the year.
But SEIA says the U.S. residential segment posted its lowest solar installation total since the first quarter of 2015, attributable to persistent "customer acquisition challenges," and a shift by major installers that are "pursuing profitable sales channels over growth." That challenge was most see in mature markets that account for the majority of installation volumes, the report explained.
SEIA says the residential PV sector fell 10% quarter-over-quarter, riven by weakness in California and major Northeast markets "which continue to feel the impact of pull-back from national providers."
But some markets also experienced record quarters for the residential segment, including: New Mexico, Washington D.C., Virginia and Idaho. SEIA also said that in emerging market like Florida and Pennsylvania, installations are expected to surpass 50 MW of residential capacity for the first time this year. The third quarter saw price increases across all market segments, stemming from a global shortage of Tier 1 module supply and the Section 201 petition.
- Solar Energy Industries Association U.S. Solar Market Notches Another Quarter of 2 GW Growth, But Uncertainty Holds Back Installations
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