EIA projects US solar power market to install 24 GW in 2020, blowing away prior records


The US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting that 13.4 GWac of utility scale solar power, and 5.1 GWac of small solar power will be installed in the U.S. in 2020 — a 95% increase over 2019. The 18.5 GWac total, with a standard 1.3:1 DC to AC ratio, suggests 24 GWdc of solar power will be installed in 2020. The prior record, set in 2016 as the investment tax credit was set to expire, was just under 15 GWdc of solar power installed.

The EIA projects it to increase greater to 25.9 GWdc next year.

In addition to solar power being installed in massive amounts, the EIA noted that there would be a net negative volume of fossil fuels installed in 2020. This net negative volume fossils goes back to 2006, when fossil generation capacity peaked in the U.S. A third piece of good news is the 18.5 GW worth of wind generation expected to be installed. Between wind and solar, we’re expecting 32 GW of new power generation facilities to be installed – a true record year for the U.S.

The source of the below chart’s data is the Short-Term Energy Outlook Data Browser (pv magazine USA exported it to a clean Google Sheet here). In it, the EIA breaks out utility-scale, industrial, commercial and residential solar power on an annual basis. In 2016 there was a peak at 11.2 GWac of solar power installed, then a fall off in 2017 due to the investment tax credit hangover, before we get two years of increase in 2018 and 2019. The 2020 and 2021 explosion – heavily driven by the utility-scale volume expanding from 5.9 GWac to 13.4 GWac.

**2014 values are higher than actual due to the EIA accumulating all industrial, commercial and residential installed up to that year, in that first year of tracking

The massive growth projected isn’t limited to just utility-scale. The EIA projections sees small-scale solar growing from 3.6 GWac deployed in 2019 by 38% to just over 5 GWac installed. This growth is mostly driven by the residential market, but also by the commercial market, which is expected to grow again after contracting in 2019.

The utility-scale data aligns with a year-old report by S&P Global Market Intelligence citing more than 12 GWac of utility scale solar that might get deployed in 2020. Coupled with a Wood Mackenzie Renewables & Power report suggesting energy storage volume deployed is expected to triple from 2019 into 2020,  and more than double from 2020 into 2021, the advanced energy industry will be on a roll.

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