US Smashes Solar Power Records in 2016
The Solar Energy Industries Association says in a new report released on December 13, “The U.S. installed 4,143 megawatts of solar power in Q3 2016 to reach 35.8 gigawatts of total installed capacity, enough solar power to run 6.5 million American homes. With more than 1 million residential solar installations nationwide and record-breaking growth in the utility-scale sector, the industry is poised to nearly double year-over-year.”
The report was compiled by GTM Research and predicts that there will be 4.8 gigawatts of solar power brought on line in the 4th quarter of this year. That’s more than in the entire year of 2015. “It’s safe to say the state of the solar industry here in America is strong,” said Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s interim president. “The solar market now enjoys an economically-winning hand that pays off both financially and environmentally.” Cory Honeyman, associate director of US solar power at GTM Research says, “The third quarter of 2016 represents the first phase of this massive wave of project completion — a trend that will continue well into the first half of 2017.”
Between July and September of this year, 4.1GW of solar photovoltaic cells (PV) were installed in the US. That’s enough new power for one home every 11 seconds – using the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) average figure that 1MW powers 164 homes on average.
The SEIA report, compiled by consultants at GTM Research, predicts that the last quarter of this year will be an even larger with roughly 4.8 gigawatts of new solar power scheduled to come online before the year is out. If so, that one quarter will exceed the amount of solar power installed in all of 2015. 77% of new capacity in 2016 was in the form of grid scale solar farms rather than residential rooftop solar panel systems.
Some of the bump in installed solar in 2016 was driven by a desire to take advantage of government subsidies that were scheduled to expire on December 31, but Congress extended the expiration date until the end of 2021. Many projects were underway before the deadline was extended. Incoming president Donald Trump likes burning coal more than getting clean energy from the sun. He may attempt to cancel or restrict the federal subsidies already in place, but they enjoy broad support on both sides of the congressional aisle. That makes it unlikely his reactionary policies will find much political support.
The growth of solar is California is slowing down as finding households willing to go to solar has become increasingly difficult. “GTM Research does not expect all of the above trends to be permanent problems,” said the report. “Rather, they are signs of a segment figuring out how to grow in a maturing customer environment.”
Source: Climate Change News