Solar photovoltaic energy generation in the U.S. saw the most installations of any year on record, with a new report showing that 7,260 MWdc of capacity was installed in 2015. According to the Solar Market Insight 2015 Q4 report, the increase in installed capacity represents an increase of 16% over 2014. The gains pushed the amount of new solar installations past natural gas capacity additions for the first time, representing nearly 30% of all new energy sources in 2015.
While residential solar saw the fastest growth of any sector compared to last year at 66%, utility-scale photovoltaics set a new record by installing 4 GWdc of power, a 6% increase against 2014. While the gains from utility solar are significant, the report which was released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), is quick to note that this is the third year in the row that non-residential solar installations stayed essentially static, with 1,011 MWdc of installations. The authors attribute the plateau to a variety of factors, including scaling challenges for the projects. Additionally, the report points out that other types of solar generation are gaining a foothold as well, with concentrating solar power adding 110 MW of capacity from SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes project.
The future of solar is looking bright, with the report pointing to the extension of the Federal Investment Tax Credit through 2021 as a major driver for the 50% net growth that is expected for solar installations through 2020. The authors project that 2016 will be even better than last year, predicting a 120% increase in solar PV installations with new utility scale installations alone set to add more capacity than was added in total in 2015.