US PV heads for mid-size: Solarbuzz

The US solar PV market has reached an inflection point, and will increasingly be driven by mid-sized projects, rather than the monsters like NRG Energy’s 290MW (AC) Agua Caliente which have dominated the market in recent years.

The reason, says market researcher NPD Solarbuzz, is that utility-scale developers are growing increasingly mindful of the planned expiration of the Investment Tax Credit at the end of 2016.

There are still a number of massive PV projects in late development or under construction in the US, including Sempra’s 345MW Copper Mountain 3 and the Google-backed 266MW Mount Signal.

Arizona’s Agua Caliente array, owned by NRG Energy and MidAmerican, and built by First Solar, is the world’s largest operational PV array.

But the focus in the US market is pivoting to projects smaller than 30MW, says Solarbuzz analyst Christine Beadle. “[The ITC] deadline is causing a shift in focus to smaller projects that can be completed on shorter timescales,” Beadle explains.

The number of mid-sized projects in the US pipeline has grown by 33% in the past year.

The US will be the world’s third largest PV market this year, up one spot on 2012, according to Solarbuzz.

Last year the US installed 3.35GW of PV, behind Germany, China and Italy.

This year it is expected to trail just China and Japan.

“Projects of all sizes have become increasingly viable due to declines in solar PV system pricing in the past year,” says Solarbuzz senior analyst Michael Barker.