US solar has the chance to recover in 2020 after a record 3.6 GW first quarter


The record Q1 numbers reported in SEIA and Wood Mackenzie’s most recent U.S. Solar Market Insight are a snapshot of a time long gone, of a solar industry largely untouched by the coronavirus.

In fact, at a whopping 3.6 GW of new solar photovoltaic capacity, Q1 2020 was the largest first quarter ever in the United States by nearly a gigawatt.

But trouble lies ahead for the rooftop sector in 2020, which will be down 32% in 2020 compared to pre-Covid forecasts, according to SEIA. It’s only the robust pipeline of big solar projects that will permit the industry to show growth compared to 2019.

The report notes that only a “handful of states had begun to implement stay-at-home orders by the end of Q1, meaning that the impacts of coronavirus on Q1 2020 installations are marginal and are expected to be seen primarily in Q2.”

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is being felt in construction delays, loss of customer demand and loss of access to project financing. (Although pv magazine finds utility-scale developers adapting pretty well and a steady stream of solar projects bigger than 100 MW in even the least likely states.)

Key takeaways

Here are the key takeaways from the report.

  • The U.S. will install 113 GW of solar from 2020 to 2025, revised down 3.6 GW from earlier forecasts
  • In Q1 2020, solar accounted for nearly 40% of all new electricity generating capacity added in the U.S.
  • The impact of the pandemic has hit distributed solar the hardest — the segment will see 31% fewer installations than 2019 and substantial decreases in residential and non-residential markets.
  • Wood Mackenzie forecasts 33% annual growth in 2020, with nearly 18 GW of installations expected — down 1.7 GW from the earlier U.S. forecast

Despite the miserable year, Wood Mackenzie anticipates 33% growth in 2020, due to the robust 14 GW utility-scale segment driven by record utility-scale procurement totals in 2019 and Q1 2020.

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