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US residential solar market soars in anticipation of tax credit stepdown

The U.S. residential solar market reached record highs in the third quarter of 2019 with 712 megawatts of solar installed, according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The U.S. solar market added 2.6 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics in the third quarter, swelling total U.S. solar capacity to 71.3 gigawatts.

The increase in residential installations helped the U.S. solar market grow 45% year-over-year and contributed to 15 states having their best quarter ever for residential solar. States with smaller solar markets such as Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico and Iowa all saw record residential growth due to continued price declines and improvements to the economic competitiveness of solar across the country.

California continues to be the largest residential solar market, installing nearly 300 megawatts in the third quarter of 2019, breaking its own quarterly record.

“This positive report makes clear that American families are demanding energy choice and solar, and that our industry is ready to deliver,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “This is the kind of growth and investment we could see going forward if we make smart policy moves, like extending the solar Investment Tax Credit and stopping additional tariffs. Failure to make these policy moves will limit deployment potential and cost jobs.”

The solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) allows homeowners to deduct 30 percent of the total cost of investment from their taxes for systems installed in 2019. Starting in 2020, the tax credit will step down to 26 percent for 2020, 22 percent in 2021 and then zero after that.

SEIA and others have been working to extend the ITC.

The anticipated stepdown most certainly drove installations in 2019. The report adds that power shutoffs in California and national coverage of these issues has renewed demand for solar + storage solutions in California and other states across the country.

Wood Mackenzie is forecasting that the total amount of solar installed in the U.S. in 2019 will reach 13 gigawatts, representing 23% annual growth.

More findings from the report include:

  • In Q3 2019, the U.S. solar market installed 2.6 GWdc of solar PV, representing a 45% increase from Q3 2018 and a 25% increase from Q2 2019.
  • The U.S. saw record-setting residential solar capacity added in Q3 with more than 700 MW installed.
  • A total of 21.3 GWdc of new utility PV projects were announced from Q1 to the end of Q3, bringing the contracted utility PV pipeline to a record high of 45.5 GWdc.
  • Non-residential PV saw 445 MWdc installed as policy shifts in states including California, Massachusetts and Minnesota continue to slow growth.
  • Wood Mackenzie forecasts 23% year-over-year growth in 2019, with 13 GWdc of installations expected. In total, more than 9 GW were added to the five-year forecast since last quarter to account for new utility-scale procurement.
  • Total installed U.S. PV capacity will more than double over the next five years, with annual installations reaching 20.1 GWdc in 2021 prior to the expiration of the federal Investment Tax Credit for residential systems and a drop in the commercial credit to 10% (under the current version of the law).