The US has enjoyed a record-breaking quarter for solar power, installing 4.1GW of new capacity over a three month period and setting the country on track to add an impressive 14.1GW during 2016.
New figures released this week from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) show on average one megawatt of new capacity was installed every 32 minutes over the course of the third quarter, taking the total level of installed capacity in the US to 35.8GW – capable of generating enough clean electricity to power 6.5 million homes.
The final quarter of the year is expected to be even stronger, with around 4.8GW of capacity slated to be added to the grid. Overall, the size of the US solar sector is expected to almost double year-on-year during 2016.
“Coming off our largest quarter ever and with an extremely impressive pipeline ahead, it’s safe to say the state of the solar industry here in America is strong,” Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s interim president, said in a statement.
Future growth in the market was secured last December when Congress passed an extension of the federal tax credits for renewable energy. However, a game of brinkmanship ahead of the agreement led many developers to assume the tax credits would expire by the end of 2016 as originally planned – prompting a rush to finish projects by the end of the year.
The bulk of the new installations came from the non-residential segment, which posted its second largest quarter ever installing 375MW of capacity. In particular, the community solar pipeline is enjoying record 20 per cent growth rates, the report notes.
Industry insiders are concerned President-elect Trump could seek to curtail the renewable energy sector’s growth as he stacks his cabinet with executives with links to the fossil fuel industry. But there is also optimism the solar and wind industries will continue to grow rapidly, benefiting from support at a state level and cost competitiveness in many regions.