Solar Industry Update: We've Surpassed 100 Gigawatts!
Alex "Solar Girl" Steele
Despite the economic and logistical challenges of the last year, we are excited to see how the solar energy industry continues to grow! The United States’ solar industry has added an impressive amount of new renewable capacity over the past year, and is set to expand even more over the next decade. Today, we’ll be investigating an article from the Solar Energy Industries Association that chronicles how the United States is developing new clean power in leaps and bounds, and is only anticipated to add more as time goes on!
As of June 2021, the United States has officially exceeded 100 GW (Gigawatts) of installed electric generating capacity in solar infrastructure. The first quarter of 2021 set records and made history, accounting for an incredible 58% of all new electric capacity development in our nation! This capacity, marked at 5 GW in Q1 of 2021, is a 46% increase in total solar installed in Q1 of 2020. Even more impressive, almost 100% of all new electric capacity added to the grid so far this year has been some kind of renewable power!
Most of this development comes from the utility-scale sector, which is responsible for installing 3.6 GW worth of the total 5 GW added in Q1. In fact, such a large portion of solar has been added to the grid that the U.S Solar Market Insight report has separated community solar from commercial solar in their research, for the first time ever! The commercial sector actually grew by a whopping 19% from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021. This is great news because large-scale utility solar development benefits the entire grid by offsetting the demand for energy produced by burning fossil fuels, and driving down the cost of energy as a whole.
Besides the organic growth of clean energy infrastructure, the global energy research and consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie suggests that federal incentives could bolster the development of clean energy even further. The solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is expected to drive a remarkable amount of growth and investment in renewables over the next few years, estimated to grow by 160 GW for the next 5 years, bringing the total photovoltaic capacity in the United States to over 250 GW by 2026!
Despite all of these advancements, there are some potential roadblocks that may make it challenging for developers to meet the increasing demands for solar. Supply constraints for materials such as steel, aluminum, and copper are starting to drive up costs. Although the average prices for solar didn’t change much over the past year, Wood Mackenzie surmises that pricing will have to increase to account for these supply issues soon. However, this is really the only roadblock standing in the way of solar’s continued upswing!
As solar installers, we are intimately familiar with the challenges and opportunities that present themselves in the industry. We are excited to be part of this enterprise at such an exciting and revolutionary time, and we will continue to update our readers as more news about the growth of solar comes out!