Solar tops US Q1 power additions

Solar energy accounted for three-quarters of the new power-generation capacity added in the US during the first quarter of 2014, far outstripping wind and natural gas, says GTM Research.

Solar – including both PV and concentrated solar power (CSP) – accounted for 74% of the nameplate capacity additions in the country during Q1, compared to wind’s 20%, and just 4% from natural gas.

Altogether, GTM expects 6.6GW of new PV additions in the US this year, a 33% gain on 2013. The market will grow strongly again over the next two years, reaching nearly 12GW in 2016, before the Investment Tax Credit drops to 10% from its current 30%, GTM says.

On the PV side, the first-quarter boom came on the back of both the utility-scale segment, with projects like Silver Ridge’s Mount Signal brought on line, and the residential PV segment, which for the first time eclipsed the commercial rooftop segment in overall additions, according to GTM’s quarterly U.S. Solar Market Insight report, released Thursday.

Companies like SolarCity and Vivint Solar combined to install 232MW of residential PV capacity during the quarter, more than the 225MW performance on the commercial rooftop side, representing a landmark for the booming residential sector.

While the commercial segment is expected to rebound and top residential for the whole of 2014, residential may surpass it on a full-year basis as soon as 2016, GTM believes.

Solar’s first-place performance in the quarterly US energy race was also aided by the CSP sector, with Q1 representing the largest-ever quarter for CSP, thanks to the completion of the 392MW Ivanpah and the second 125MW phase of Genesis.

A total of 857MW of CSP is expected to be taken on line in 2014 in the US, the sector’s best-ever performance.