Positive news for California rooftop solar in Q2 – so far

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Brad Heavner, policy director at the California Solar and Storage Association, shared some solar interconnection data with pv magazine — updated through the end of April — and it looks like California’s behind-the-meter residential and commercial solar market started 2020 on a strong, resilient note.

Heavner said, “I was surprised that there was not a big dip in April — despite shelter-in-place orders that went into effect at or near the beginning of the month.”

Combined solar interconnections for California’s three big IOUs totaled 350 megawatts in the first four months of both 2019 and 2020.

California solar interconnection Jan-April 2019 vs. Jan-April 2020 (MW)

California Solar and Storage Association

At a whopping 3.6 GW of new solar photovoltaic capacity, Q1 2020 was the largest first quarter ever in the U.S by nearly a gigawatt, according to SEIA and Wood Mackenzie’s most recent U.S. Solar Market Insight.

But there’s trouble ahead for the rooftop sector in 2020 (despite these California numbers), with SEIA expecting a 32% drop in 2020 compared to pre-Covid forecasts. It’s the robust pipeline of utility-scale 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″ in the form of construction delays, loss of customer demand and loss of access to project financing.

Despite all this, 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. Though the pandemic has hit distributed solar the hardest — with 31% fewer installations than 2019 — residential installers and lead generators are checking in with positive signs.

Wood Mackenzie anticipates 33% growth in 2020, with nearly 18 GW of installations expected — due to a 14 GW utility-scale segment.

As Heavner said, “California solar and storage just keeps marching through all obstacles.”