US adds record solar electric generating capacity and solar jobs
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Solar power installations represented 32 percent of new electric generating capacity in 2014, boosting overall installed capacity of 20 gigawatts.
Combining solar photovoltaic and concentrating solar power, the U.S. has enough solar power to support 4 million American homes. Also the industry now employs nearly 175,000 workers, more than tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter combined.
According to the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review published by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), newly installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity for year reached a record 6,201 megawatts (MW), growing 30 percent over 2013’s total. An additional 767 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) came on-line in the same period.
Solar accounted for 32 percent of the nation’s new generating capacity in 2014, beating out both wind energy and coal for the second year in a row. Only natural gas constituted a greater share of new generating capacity.
In 2014, for the first time in history, each of the three major U.S. market segments – utility, commercial and residential – installed more than a gigawatt (GW) of PV.
The U.S. utility-scale segment broke the GW mark in 2011 and has since grown by nearly 1 GW annually. In 2014, 3.9 GW of utility-scale PV projects came on-line with another 14 GW of projects currently under contract.
The commercial segment in the U.S. also first installed more than 1 GW in 2011 but has not shared the same success as the utility-scale segment. In 2014, the commercial segment installed just over 1 GW, down 6 percent from 2013. The report notes, “Many factors have contributed to this trend, ranging from tight economics to difficulty financing small commercial installations.”
But GTM Research expects 2015 to be a bounce-back year for the commercial segment, highlighted by a resurgence in California.
The U.S. residential segment’s 1.2 GW in 2014 marks its first time surpassing 1 GW. Residential continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the U.S., with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50 percent annual growth.
“Without question, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has helped to fuel our industry’s remarkable growth. Today the U.S. solar industry has more employees than tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter combined,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “Since the ITC was passed in 2006, more than 150,000 solar jobs have been created in America, and $66 billion has been invested in solar installations nationwide. We now have 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity – enough to power 4 million U.S. homes – and we’re helping to reduce harmful carbon emissions by 20 million metric tons a year. By any measurement, the ITC has been a huge success for both our economy and environment.”
GTM Research forecasts the U.S. PV market to grow 31 percent in 2015. The utility segment is expected to account for 59 percent of the forecasted 8.1 GW of PV.
"Solar PV was a $13.4 billion market in the U.S. in 2014, up from just $3 billion in 2009," said Shayle Kann, senior vice president at GTM Research. "And this growth should continue throughout 2015 thanks to falling solar costs, business model innovation, an attractive political and regulatory environment and increased availability of low-cost capital."
Additional key findings:
- The U.S. installed 6,201 MW of solar PV in 2014, up 30 percent over 2013, making 2014 the largest year ever in terms of PV installations.
- Solar provided roughly one third of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in 2014.
- More than one third of all cumulative operating PV capacity in the U.S. came on-line in 2014.
- By the end of 2014, 20 states eclipsed the 100 MW mark for cumulative operating solar PV installations, and California alone is home to 8.7 GW.
- For the first time ever, more than half a gigawatt of residential solar installations came on line without any state incentive in 2014.
- Growth remains driven primarily by the utility solar PV market, which installed 1.5 GW in Q4 2014, the largest quarterly total ever for any market segment.
- PV installations are forecast to reach 8.1 GW in 2015, up 59% over 2014.
- 2014 was the largest year ever for concentrating solar power, with 767 MW brought on-line. Notable project completions include the 392 MW Ivanpah project. Genesis Solar project’s second phase of 125 MW and Abengoa’s Mojave Solar (250 MW), which achieved commercial operation in December 2014.
- All solar projects completed in 2014 represent $17.8 billion in investment ($13.4 billion in PV and $4.4 billion in CSP).
- As of the end of 2014, cumulative operating PV in the U.S. totaled 18.3 GW and cumulative operating CSP totaled 1.7 GW.
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Companies: Solar Energy Industries Association