10 solar stats to know from the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2017

The U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2017 Year-in-Review from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) dropped today. Here are the 10 numbers to know.

10.6 GW

That’s the new PV capacity in 2017, led by strong growth in the corporate and community solar segments. This is the second year in a row that solar additions hit double-digits. But…

30 percent

That’s the decrease year-over-year from 2016’s record-shattering 15 GW. The year-over-year downturn for the utility segment in 2017 was the big culprit here, and was largely expected, due to the massive influx of installations rushed in, anticipating the expiration of the Investment Tax Credit.

2017 solar installations

40 percent

If you skip 2016, viewing it for the anomaly it may have been, solar additions in 2017 grew 40 percent growth over 2015’s installation total.

28 percent

That’s the year-over-year growth in the non-residential market segment in 2017 – its fourth straight year of annual growth. Last year in particular saw an “explosion” in the community solar market, led by Minnesota and Massachusetts.

16 percent

That’s the percentage decrease in the residential sector year over year. This contraction was driven by weakness in California and major Northeast markets, which continue to feel the impact of pullback from certain national installers that have shifted away from rapid-expansion strategies. Both residential and utility-scale installations fell on an annual basis for the first time since GTM Research and SEIA began publishing the report in 2010.


That’s the number of states in the top 10 markets for residential solar that showed growth. Insert sad trombone noise here.


Of the remaining 44 states tracked in the report, 25 saw year-over-year growth in annual residential PV installations with several states climbing up in the rankings. Florida managed to break into the top 10 states for the first time since 2011, jumping to the No. 10 spot for cumulative solar capacity installed. Over the last year, South Carolina also saw big gains, moving up 9 spots in the new rankings to No. 18 in the U.S. California and North Carolina remain the two largest solar states after adding the most and second-most capacity in 2017, respectively.

solar projects by sector 2017

FIGURE: U.S. PV Installation Forecast, 2010-2023E. Source: GTM Research / SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Report

13 percent

That’s how much GTM Research lowered its base-case forecast for 2018-2022 because of the federal and state policy changes and market dynamics.


15 GW.

Even after that drop, GTM still sees that much solar being installed on an annual basis by 2023 and expects capacity to double over the next five years.

10.6 GW

That is the GTM Research forecast for new PV installations in 2018.

— Solar Builder magazine

Global solar tracker shipments up 32 percent, another 30 percent increase expected

Solar trackers continue to take more market share in large-scale PV design, and the #TrumpTariffs may even encourage more tracker deployment, in order for more conservative investors who traditionally installed fixed-tilt under pre-tariff pricing look to boost long-term project value. Even before accounting for that possibility, according to new data from GTM Research, global solar tracker shipments hit a record 14.5 gigawatts in 2017. This represents growth of 32 percent year-over-year.

The data comes from GTM Research’s new report, Global Solar PV Tracker Market Shares and Shipments 2018.
The report notes that NEXTracker maintained its spot at the top of the shipment rankings, accounting for a third of all solar PV trackers sold worldwide in 2017. Array Technologies ranked second, and Soltec third. For the first time, Latin America was the largest market for solar trackers, followed closely by the United States.

GTM solar trackers

“Mexico and Brazil are two of the fastest growing solar markets in the world, each accounting for over 1.5 gigawatts of tracker shipments in 2017, notes Scott Moskowitz, senior analyst at GTM Research and author of the study. “The U.S. utility-scale market was significantly stunted last year due to tariff uncertainty, so it took a backseat to Latin America.”

GTM Research solar tracker shipments

In spite of strong growth, GTM expects to see continued consolidation in the industry. The report notes that vendor margins continue to compress as the market grows, making profitable growth a significant challenge. There has already been one significant acquisition in 2018, with steel giant ArcelorMittal acquiring Exosun out of French bankruptcy court in January.

However, analysts at GTM Research remain optimistic. “Fundamentals in the global utility-scale solar industry are excellent, and trackers are an obvious choice in most developing solar markets,” said Moskowitz. “We expect 30 percent growth in 2018, with shipments approaching 20 gigawatts.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Post-solar tariff roundup: Installation forecasts, SunPower delays, WTO challenge

solar tariff imports

Tariffs are being placed on solar modules and cells, per orders of Donald Trump, and will be effective Feb. 7, 2018. Here are all of the details on how these will go into effect. What follows is an updated forecast for U.S. solar installations during that tariff period and additional solar industry fallout since the decision was made official on Jan. 23.

GTM’s updated forecast

GTM Research solar tariff 3

GTM Research predicts that tariffs and quotas will result in nearly a quarter million homes, businesses and other retail customers no longer installing solar between now and 2022. The somewhat good news is the expectation that the U.S. solar industry will “resume growth and recover beyond 2017 levels in 2019.” Sure, this is despite a 16 percent loss in demand compared to GTM Research’s original forecast, but better than some of the worst case scenarios initially feared.

GTM research solar tariff 1

The percentages break out like this during that 2018-2022 time period:

◦ Utility PV: 11.6% , 4.9 GW. “Utility Solar: As the near term pipeline of less sensitive RPS driven projects and projects already in construction depletes, effects of the tariff will be most severe in 2019. Reductions to demand will be lower in 2020 and 2021 as projects currently in development push out completion dates to leverage the tariff stepdown and commence construction rules for higher federal investment tax credit levels.”

GTM research solar tariff 2

◦ Non-Residential PV: 10.7%, 1.1 GW. “Non-Residential Solar: Large C&I customers with challenging rate structures and community solar with higher transaction and soft costs result in nonresidential solar being more sensitive than residential solar. However, the near term outlook is partly protected by less sensitive projects grandfathered in under retiring policies and incentives across the top 4 state markets in 2018 (i.e. CA, MA, MN and NY).”

◦ Residential PV: 9.9%, 1.5 GW. “Residential Solar: Major residential state markets (i.e. CA and the Northeast) will see the largest declines in absolute MWs, but are mostly expected to maintain 10%+ year 1 savings compared to emerging state markets that round out the top 15 state market rankings.”

But we were promised more jobs

Reuters reports that SunPower, one of the largest and most influential companies in the U.S. solar industry, is now postponing a $20 million factory expansion because of the tariff decision. Hm. This seems odd because Fearless Leader assured us tariffs would save U.S. manufacturing. But nonetheless, here is SunPower CEO Tom Werner:

“We have to stop the $20 million investment because the tariffs start before we know if we’re excluded,” he said. “It’s not hypothetical. These were positions that we were recruiting for that we are going to stop.”

The article says SunPower is seeking an exception from the 30 percent tariff imposed this week so they can continue to grow the company in California and Texas while relying on manufacturing locations in the Philippines and Mexico.

Will there be exceptions?

The only countries excluded from the safeguard tariff are developing nations designated as “GSP-Eligible Beneficiaries,” which you can view here, but even that’s not quite true because the Philippines and Thailand are not excluded, SEIA notes. Canada and Mexico are also not excluded from the tariff.

Product exclusions though, are still a possibility. Trump has directed the USTR to publish rules for requesting product exclusions by Feb. 22.

Updates on appeals

The only challenge to the tariffs at this point can come from a sovereign nation appealing to the World Trade Organization, which has been an effective tool for said nations, as the United States has lost every safeguard challenge at the WTO.

“This is not the first time a Republican president introduces trade barriers,” said Dr Fragkiskos Filippaios, reader in International Business at Kent Business School at the University of Kent. “George Bush in the early 2000s introduced tariffs on the imports of steel. The matter was raised from other countries to WTO and the ruling of the international organization led to the immediate withdrawal of the measures. It is highly likely that this is going to be the outcome in the washing machines and solar products case. Donald Trump will have gained brownie points internally by fulfilling his promise to put “America First” but at the same time will put the blame on WTO and its rulings for not being able to maintain the trade restrictions.”

SEIA also notes that the remedy is subject to a mid-term review by the International Trade Commission (ITC), including a public hearing that will result in a report to the president. The ITC would likely start its examination in the summer of 2019 in order to deliver a report to the president in January 2020.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar installation five-year forecast reduced 11 percent due to Trump tariff decision

According to new analysis by GTM Research, the tariffs on imported solar cells and modules set forth by the Trump administration will result in an 11 percent decrease in U.S. solar PV installations over the next five years. This represents a reduction of 7.6 GW of installed solar PV capacity between 2018 and 2022.

FIGURE: Annual U.S. PV Installations with and without Tariffs, 2017E-2022E

solar installations with tariffs

Source: GTM Research U.S. Downstream Solar Service

GTM Research notes that the tariffs result in an average $0.10/W increase in year 1 prices to modules, stepping down to a $0.04/W premium by year 4.

According to the analysis, the utility-scale solar segment will be more heavily affected than the residential and commercial solar segments, taking 65 percent of the expected 7.6 GW of reductions over the next five years.

FIGURE: Annual U.S. PV Installation Reductions Due to Tariffs by Segment

GTM Research solar reductions

Source: GTM Research U.S. Downstream Solar Service.

Projects under construction or with modules already in inventory will damper the effect on 2018 installations, with the effect of tariffs hitting the downstream market more heavily in 2019.

The analysis also shows that new and emerging state markets are disproportionately affected, with southern states like Texas, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina amongst the most impacted by the tariffs.

“Trump’s decision on solar tariffs matches closely to recommendations from the US International Trade Commission,” said MJ Shiao, Head of Americas at GTM Research. “The overall effect is a meaningful but not destructive reduction to expected solar installations in concert with modest improvements to a still challenging environment for domestic solar cell and module manufacturing.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Here’s why residential solar is down more than expected in Q3 2017

residential solar installation

Despite more than half of U.S states now being at grid parity — meaning the levelized cost of energy is below electricity bill savings in year 1 of system life — the U.S. residential segment posted its lowest solar installation total since the first quarter of 2015, according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The residential PV sector fell 10 percent quarter-over-quarter. Declining growth is driven by weakness in California and major Northeast markets, which continue to feel the impact of pull-back from national providers.

The report attributes the slowdown to two key factors: persistent nationwide customer acquisition challenges and a pivot by major solar installers that are pursuing profitable sales channels over growth. This has been particularly acute in mature markets that account for the majority of installation volumes.

Several markets, however, experienced record quarters for the residential solar segment. These include New Mexico, Washington D.C., Virginia and Idaho. Meanwhile, emerging markets, such as Florida and Pennsylvania, are expected to surpass 50 MW of residential capacity for the first time ever this year.

“The year 2017 has been unconventional for solar in the sense that utility and residential PV, which have historically been the market’s major growth segments, are actually expected to decline in 2017,” said GTM Research Solar Analyst Austin Perea. “For utility PV this is largely a function of comparing the record-breaking ITC demand-pull in effect of 2016 to more modest build-out in 2017, while significant customer acquisition issues remain a challenge for residential solar. Conversely, non-residential solar, the smallest and most historically beleaguered sector, is expected to grow in 2017 in large part due to robust community solar build-out and regulatory demand pull-in across major state markets.”

— Solar Builder magazine