Report: Community solar to soar in 2017

If GTM Research’s projections are correct, solar could be coming to a community near you this year – maybe even yours.

The report, U.S. Community Solar Outlook 2017, says community solar installations will top more than 410 MW in capacity in 2017, an average of 8.2 MW per state. With such a remarkable installation rate, community solar might quickly become a mainstream driver of the U.S. solar market growth.

Building on a stellar 2016, when installations of community solar topped more than 200 MW, the report suggests the shared-renewables market could be installing 500 MW a year as soon as 2019.

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“Looking ahead, the community solar market will be defined by utilities scaling up pilot programs beyond a single sub-1-megawatt project,” said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research’s director of U.S. solar research and lead author of the report.

Last year, most analysts assumed community solar was being driven by third-party projects marketed by developers, but the new report shatters that assumption as myth. Instead, the community solar market is being driven by utility-created voluntary solar programs, of which there there are currently 150 in place or in development across the country.  

While GTM believes the community solar market will continue to grow, it also cautions that the market will vary – possibly significantly – from year to year. The reasons for the variance include utility-led procurement and volatile regulatory environments for third-party led projects.