Newly installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the US in 2014 reached a record 6,201 MW, growing 30% over 2013’s total, according to the new US Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review report released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). An additional 767 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) came on-line in the same period.
(The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) notes that because different types of generating capacity have very different utilization rates, with nuclear plants and natural gas combined-cycle generators having utilization factors three to five times those of wind and solar generators, capacity measures alone do not directly show how much generation is actually provided by new capacity of each type.)
Solar accounted for 32% of US new generating capacity in 2014, beating out both wind energy and coal for the second year in a row. Only natural gas constituted a greater share of new generating capacity. Also in 2014, for the first time, each of the three major US market segments—utility, commercial and residential—installed more than a gigawatt (GW) of PV.
The utility-scale segment broke the GW mark in 2011 and has since grown by nearly 1 GW annually. In 2014, 3.9 GW of utility-scale PV projects came on-line with another 14 GW of projects currently under contract.
The commercial segment in the US also first installed more than 1 GW in 2011 but has not shared the same success as the utility-scale segment. In 2014, the commercial segment installed just over 1 GW, down 6% from 2013. GTM Research expects 2015 to be a bounce-back year for the commercial segment, highlighted by a resurgence in California.
The residential segment’s 1.2 GW in 2014 marks its first time surpassing 1 GW. Residential continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the US, with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50% annual growth.
GTM Research forecasts the US PV market to grow 31% in 2015. The utility segment is expected to account for 59% of the forecasted 8.1 GW of PV.
Additional key findings:
The US installed 6,201 MW of solar PV in 2014, up 30% over 2013, making 2014 the largest year ever in terms of PV installations.
Solar provided roughly one third of all new electric generating capacity in the US in 2014.
More than one-third of all cumulative operating PV capacity in the US came on-line in 2014.
By the end of 2014, 20 states eclipsed the 100 MW mark for cumulative operating solar PV installations, and California alone is home to 8.7 GW.
For the first time ever, more than half a gigawatt of residential solar installations came on line without any state incentive in 2014.
Growth remains driven primarily by the utility solar PV market, which installed 1.5 GW in Q4 2014, the largest quarterly total ever for any market segment.
2014 was the largest year ever for concentrating solar power, with 767 MW brought on-line. Notable project completions include the 392 MW Ivanpah project. Genesis Solar project’s second phase of 125 MW and Abengoa’s Mojave Solar (250 MW), which achieved commercial operation in December 2014.
All solar projects completed in 2014 represent $17.8 billion in investment ($13.4 billion in PV and $4.4 billion in CSP).
As of the end of 2014, cumulative operating PV in the US totaled 18.3 GW and cumulative operating CSP totaled 1.7 GW. As a point of reference, according to the EIA, total net summer electricity capacity in the US (all sources) in 2012 for all sectors except residential was 1,063,033 MW.
The US EIA reports that in 2015, electric generating companies expect to add more than 20 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale generating capacity to the power grid. The additions are dominated by wind (9.8 GW), natural gas (6.3 GW), and solar (2.2 GW), which combine to make up 91% of total additions. Nearly 16 GW of generating capacity is expected to retire in 2015, 81% of which (12.9 GW) is coal-fired generation.