U.S. adds more solar capacity than natural gas for first time ever

US solar capacity

Solar capacity records were made to be broken at this point. In yet another record-breaking year, the solar industry in the United States installed 7,286 MW of solar PV in 2015. This number is more significant for solar than just topping its own previous record — or the first time ever, solar beat out natural-gas capacity additions, with solar supplying 29.5 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in 2015.

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association announced the historic figures today ahead of the March 9 release of the U.S. Solar Market Insight report.

Led by California, North Carolina, Nevada, Massachusetts and New York, the U.S. solar market experienced a year-over-year growth rate of 17 percent. Geographically, the market continues to diversify with 13 states installing more than 100 MW each in 2015. States that made major solar strides include Utah, which jumped in the rankings from 23rd to 7th place, and Georgia, which moved from 16th to 8th in the nation.

The residential solar market grew 66 percent year-over-year and, for the first time in history, eclipsed the 2-GW mark. The residential solar segment now represents 29 percent of the entire U.S. solar market — its largest share since 2009.

solar capacity record

Graphic from GTM Research and SEIA

For the fourth year in a row, the non-residential market broke the 1-GW mark, but remained roughly flat year-over-year. The utility-scale sector, the mainstay of the U.S. solar market, grew 6 percent year-over-year and represented more than half of all solar PV installed in 2015. Cumulative U.S. solar PV installations have now topped 25 gigawatts, up from just 2 gigawatts in 2010.

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“Without a doubt, 2015 was a monumental year for the U.S. solar industry, and perhaps what’s most amazing is that we’re only getting started,” said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch. “Over the next few years, we’re going to see solar continue to reach unprecedented heights as our nation makes a shift toward a carbon-free source of energy that also serves as an economic job-creating engine.”

“The U.S. solar market remains concentrated in key states, with the top 10 states accounting for 87 percent of installed capacity in 2015,” said Shayle Kann, senior vice president of GTM Research. “But growth has been widespread, and 24 of the 35 states that we track saw market growth in 2015.”

Other key findings in the report:

• The U.S. installed 7,286 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2015, the largest total ever and 17 percent above 2014.

• The 7.3 gigawatts installed in 2015 is 8.6 times the capacity installed five years earlier in 2010.

• Residential was once again the fastest-growing sector, installing over 2 gigawatts for the first time and growing 66 percent over 2014.

• Utility solar PV also had a record year with over 4 gigawatts installed, up 6 percent over 2014.

• 110 megawatts (AC) of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity came on-line in late 2015 when SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes project began sending electricity to the grid.

• Non-residential solar was essentially flat for the third year in a row, installing just over 1 gigawatt.

• Cumulative solar PV installations reached over 25 gigawatts by the end of the year, up from just 2 gigawatts at the end of 2010.

— Solar Builder magazine

[source: http://solarbuildermag.com/news/u-s-adds-more-solar-capacity-than-natural-gas-for-first-time-ever/]


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