We all knew that 2016 was going to be a banner year for the U.S. solar market, but now we have some definitive figures to back this up. According to the latest data produced by GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. solar market grew 95% from 2015 to 2016, with a whopping 14.6 GW installed.
This made solar the largest source of new generation that came online in the United States, at 39% of new capacity. For the second year in a row, solar and wind together represented roughly 2/3 of new capacity, with natural gas-fired generation making up most of the rest.
This is in sharp contrast with previous years. Five years ago the 1.9 GW of solar which was installed made up only 8% of new generation capacity.
The solar boom in 2016 was in part due to the large number of projects which were scheduled for completion in advance of the anticipated drop-down of the U.S. investment tax credit (ITC), which was extended at the end of 2015.
As a result, the biggest increases were in the utility-scale segment, which grew 145% year-over-year. However, there was more to this boom than the ITC. “While U.S. solar grew across all segments, what stands out is the double digit gigawatt boom in utility-scale solar, primarily due to solar’s cost competitiveness with natural gas alternatives,” said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research associate director of U.S. solar research.
However, the residential and “non-residential” (commercial, industrial and other distributed solar) markets both grew year-over-year, with the capacity of non-residential installations surpassing residential installations for the first time since 2013 and reaching 2.6 GW.
Another trend identified by GTM Research is the increasing diversification of markets. GTM Research notes that 22 states added more than 100 MW of solar in 2016, and cites residential market growth in states including Maryland and New Jersey, where the market has bounced back after a lull of several years.