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SPIE Professional April 2016

US solar market set to double in size

solar energy for a better world image

After what is described as a “momentous” 2015 for solar power in the US, this year will smash all previous records, with installations set to more than double, according to Greentech Media Research.

The Greentech analyst team predicts that close to 16 GW of photovoltaic power will be installed this year – up from the record figure of 7.3 GW in 2015.

Dozens of major utility buildouts are already in the pipeline ahead of what had previously been expected to be the final year in which projects could qualify for the US investment tax credit (ITC).

In the executive summary of their US Solar Market Insight report, lead author Cory Honeyman and colleagues at GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association write that 2015 was “a historic year for US solar policy and regulation, with a number of decisions at both the state and federal level that will determine the trajectory of the market’s future growth.”

With an extension of the ITC approved through at least 2021, GTM Research now estimates an increase in more than 50% net growth in US solar installations between 2016 and 2020. That’s an additional 24 GW compared with what had previously been expected.

“As a result of this change and other market developments since December, we now anticipate that cumulative solar photovoltaic installations will reach 97 GW by the end of 2020,” the analyst team added.

The report also confirms earlier suggestions that more PV power was added to the US grid in 2015 than any other form of electricity-generating capacity except wind. PV accounted for 29.4% of the new generating capacity, with natural gas responsible for 29% and wind power 39%.

OUTLOOK NOT SO GOOD FOR CSP AND CPV

In stark contrast, the prospects for both forms of concentrating solar power, thermal (CSP) and PV (CPV), are “bleak,” the analysts say.

The outlook for CPV is looking particularly bad, with a recent report from the US National Renewable Energy Lab and Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems describing the industry as being “in severe crisis.”

Despite continued advances in CPV technology, deployments in the field have plunged for a third successive year, according to "Current Status of CPV Technology." 

“Several major blows to formerly leading CPV companies have occurred very recently, shaking confidence in the industry,” the report says, referring to moves last year by France-based Soitec and China’s Suncore to exit the market, along with the failure of Soitec to sell its CPV systems business.

“With the largest manufacturers exiting CPV in 2015, the CPV industry is undergoing a severe crisis,” state report authors Simon Philipps and Andreas Bett from ISE, and Sarah Kurtz and Kelsey Horowitz from NREL. They estimate that the total number of CPV installations now connected to the grid reached 360 MW in 2015.

But despite the wider PV market registering record deployments of around 60 GW last year, less than 20 MW of CPV was installed – a vanishingly small percentage of global demand.

For more news about optics and photonics technologies in solar energy, susbscribe to the SPIE Newsroom solar and alternative energy news feed.

Reporting from optics.org contributed to this article.


DOI: 10.1117/2.4201604.10

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