Recovery takes hold as Q3 solar installations rose, SEIA says

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U.S. solar companies installed 3.8 GW of new solar PV capacity in Q3 2020. That was a 9% increase from Q2 installations as the industry worked to recover from some of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the U.S. Solar Market Insight Q4 2020 report, released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie, solar accounts for 43% of all new electric generating capacity additions through Q3 2020, more than any other electricity source. The report projects a record 19 GW of new solar capacity installations in 2020, representing 43% year-over-year growth from 2019.

Solar installations in several states rebounded in the third quarter after suffering big declines early in the year as the pandemic upended markets.

SEIA

The residential solar market — which was the hardest hit by the business impacts of the pandemic — beat recovery expectations, growing 14% over Q2. Even so, it remained below Q1 levels.

“Logically, the states with the biggest installation declines in Q2 also had the biggest recoveries in Q3, such as New York and New Jersey where restrictions were substantial,” said Michelle Davis, senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie. “Business model adaptations, such as virtual sales tactics and pricing promotions, continued to pay dividends through the summer and fall.”

The utility-scale market was the primary driver of Q3 installations with 2.7 GW of new capacity, representing 70% of all solar capacity brought online in Q3.

Sun Belt states are leading the way on new capacity additions this year, with Texas and Florida both installing more than 2 GW through Q3 2020. That is nearly the amount of solar that each of those states installed over 2018 and 2019 combined.

During the quarter, Enel Green Power started operations at the 245 MW second phase of its Roadrunner solar plant in Upton County, Texas. The 497 MW project is the largest operational solar farm in Texas and the company’s largest in the United States. Other Enel Green Power construction projects include the 181 MW Lily solar + storage project in Texas, the 236.5 MW White Cloud wind project in Missouri, the 299 MW Aurora wind project in North Dakota and a 199 MW expansion of the Cimarron Bend wind farm in Kansas.

The SEIA Q3 report said that the utility-scale project pipeline grew to a record 69.2 GW, and the U.S. is now forecast to reach 100 GW of cumulative installed solar capacity by mid-2021. A total of 9.5 GW of new utility PV power purchase agreements were announced during the quarter.

Forecasts for 2021-2025 put total solar installations above 107 GW, a 10 GW increase from last quarter driven primarily by increases to the utility-scale solar pipeline.

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