Solar Power Shined Bright in 2019

Photo: Entergy

The coronavirus economic disruption may slow solar power installations in 2020, but the industry is still poised for big growth if the last ten years of history is a guide.  Even with the Trump administration’s policy challenges and continued tariffs on solar tile imports, 40%of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. was solar, its highest share ever and more than any other source of electricity, according to a new report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie.  Solar installations accounted for 13.3 Gigawatts in 2019, and that was a 23% increase over 2018 installations.

Why This Matters:  Solar power is on its way now.  The total amount of solar power operating in the U.S. now exceeds 76 GW, up from just 1 GW at the end of 2009.  And according to the Wood Mackenzie report, the total installed solar capacity is projected to rise by 47% in 2020, with nearly 20 GW of new installations and each of the next two years are expected to be the largest on record for the U.S. solar industry.  And a huge part of the growth of solar is residential rooftop installations.  The future of solar is clearly bright — particularly as compared to fossil fuels.

Solar Growing By Leaps and Bounds Despite Policy and Pandemic Challenges

The solar industry’s leadership is closely monitoring changes to the demand and supply chains that may be caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but they remain optimistic because the industry has proved to be resilient in the stops and starts of its development over the last eleven years.

Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO of SEIA said, “We know anecdotally that the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to impact delivery schedules and that it could affect demand for solar as well as our ability to meet project completion deadlines based partly on new labor shortages. This once again is testing our industry’s resilience, but we believe, over the long run, we are well-positioned to outcompete incumbent generators in the ‘Solar+ Decade’ and to continue growing our market share.”

Residential Rooftop Solar Drives Growth

The residential solar sector set records for installations with more than 2.8 GW installed, led by a record year in California and continued demand in the northeastern states.  But there are pockets of new growth as well, such as Texas and Florida, along with a strong year in established markets like Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina.  The industry experts believe that over the next five years, the total installed solar power capacity will more than double, with annual installations expanding to 20.4 GW in 2021 prior to the expiration of the federal solar Investment Tax Credit for residential systems unless Congress can be persuaded to extend the tax credit in order to keep encouraging this double-digit growth.

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