US to install 6.5GW of PV in 2014, 20GW in 2015-16

Following another fiery quarter of additions, the US is on track to install 6.5GW of PV capacity in 2014 -- equivalent to more than a third of the new power capacity the country will add this year.

The US added 1,354MW of PV capacity during the third quarter, lifting its year-to-date total to 3,966MW, according to new figures published by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.

By comparison, the US added 2,647MW of PV capacity during the same period last year.

After installing what will likely be 6.5GW this year, the US will install an estimated 8.5GW in 2015 and nearly 12GW in 2016, SEIA president Rhone Resch tells Recharge.

By the end of 2014, the US will have nearly 20GW of cumulative PV capacity.

“It took us 40 years to get that first 20GW,” Resch says. “We’ll get the next 20GW in the next two years.”

Last year nine countries globally installed more than 1GW of PV. The US has now done so in four consecutive quarters, leading many global developers and module suppliers to up their commitments to the US market.

The US is expected to be the world’s third largest PV market in 2014 for the second consecutive year, once again trailing China and Japan.

The US solar sector is not just outcompeting most other global solar markets. It is also outcompeting most other electricity sectors within the US.

So far in 2014, PV has accounted for 36% of new generation capacity additions in the US, second only to natural gas (at 47%). Wind is a distant third place (at 15%), followed by coal at a feeble 2%.

In 2013 PV accounted for 29% of new generation capacity (against 46% for natural gas). In 2012 it accounted for just 10%, while wind took the top slot, with 41%.

In terms of cumulative capacity, however, PV remains far behind those other sectors. The US has more than 62GW of installed wind capacity.

The US PV market is led by the utility-scale sector, which accounted for 825MW -- or more than 60% -- of total installations. The residential market is also growing strongly, and in 2014 is expected to eclipse the commercial rooftop market for the first time.

California remains the largest statewide solar market by far, soaking up 642MW in the third quarter. Nevada – which is dominated by the utility-scale market – added 177MW, followed by North Carolina, with 95MW.