U.S. solar market’s record breaking 95 percent growth in 2016

The United States’ solar market nearly doubled its annual record for installations in 2016 and solar power was the top ranking source of new electricity generation capacity additions last year.

According to a preview of GTM Research’s and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) upcoming U.S. Solar Market Insight report, 14,626 megawatts of solar panels were installed in 2016. This represented a 95 percent increase over 2015’s 7,493 MW, which was also a record breaking year.

“What these numbers tell you is that the solar industry is a force to be reckoned with,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the SEIA. “Solar’s economically-winning hand is generating strong growth across all market segments nationwide, leading to more than 260,000 Americans now employed in solar.”

According to the recently released National Solar Jobs Census 2016 report, the USA’s solar workforce grew 25 percent over 2015.

Figure: U.S. Solar PV Installations, 2010-2016. Credit: gtmresearch, SEIA

The nation’s record-smashing installation effort was led primarily by the utility-scale solar segment, growing 145 percent from 2015. This was spurred on by the competitiveness of solar PV compared with natural gas alternatives and a pipeline of projects initially hedging against the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit.

2016 was also the first year non-residential installation growth exceeded residential solar growth since 2011, but the residential segment still saw a very respectable 2,583 MW of capacity installed; representing 19 percent growth year-over-year.

Community solar energy also had a banner year, adding a record total of more than 200 MW capacity.

Solar PV represented 39 percent of new capacity additions across all fuel types last year and a record 22 states added more than 100 megawatts of capacity.

According to the report preview, more than 1.3 million solar power installations with a cumulative capacity exceeding 40 gigawatts are now installed across the USA.

It took decades for the nation to reach the 1 million systems mark, which happened in 2016, but it seems the second million milestone will be reached in just a couple more years.

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