The Solar Energy Industries Association had projected a 47% growth for solar in 2020 - but those figures will be cut in the next few weeks

Solar panels

India is aiming to expand its renewable energy capacity from about 93 gigawatts (GW) currently to 450GW by 2030 (Credit: Wikimedia/US Air Force)

The US solar power industry is facing a “significant crisis” as coronavirus is set to affect supply and demand, says an expert.

US solar trade group, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), released a response today (17 March) on the impact the virus is having on the industry after it has caused a global pandemic.

Although its annual market report projected a 47% growth for solar in 2020, SEIA has admitted those figures will be reduced in the next few weeks.

SEIA president Abigail Ross Hopper said the virus is a “pretty significant crisis in the solar industry, in addition to a significant crisis in the overall economy”, Reuters reported.


How the coronavirus is affecting the US solar power industry

Hopper admitted that the industry knows anecdotally that the pandemic is “starting to impact delivery schedules”.

She added: “It could affect demand for solar as well as our ability to meet project completion deadlines based partly on new labour shortages.

“This once again is testing our industry’s resilience, but we believe, over the long run, we are well-positioned to outcompete incumbent generators in the solar+ decade and to continue growing our market share.”

Lightsource BP solar
Over the next five years, the SEIA predicts the total installed US solar PV (photovoltaic) capacity will more than double, with annual installations reaching 20.4GW in 2021 (Credit: Flickr/Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon)

To combat the impact of the virus, the solar team at energy research firm Wood Mackenzie is tracking industry changes closely for SEIA, as they relate to solar equipment supply chains, component pricing and project development timelines.

SEIA said its organisations will then issue follow-up reports on the impacts of the pandemic as needed.

The virus has hit at a bad time for the industry, as solar power and other clean technologies continue to gain interest from investors looking to steer away from fossil fuels.

According to the report, solar accounted for 40% of all new electric generating capacity in the US last year.

That was the largest-ever share recorded and more than any other source of electricity, with 13.3 gigawatts (GW) installed – leading to a 23% growth in the US solar market from 2018.

Over the next five years, the SEIA predicts the total installed US solar PV (photovoltaic) capacity will more than double, with annual installations reaching 20.4GW in 2021.


Coronavirus impact on the solar power industry in countries outside the US

The impact of the coronavirus on global renewables markets could make 2020 the first “down year” for solar power capacity addition since the 1980s, according to BloombergNEF.

The research arm of US media giant Bloomberg has revised down its February global solar PV demand outlook for the year from between 121GW and 152GW to between 108GW and 143GW – a drop of 8% drop in its midpoint estimate.

Policy shifts in China, the epicentre of the global pandemic, brought on by the impact on industrial and economic activity are expected to push some 2020 solar demand into next year.

There is better news for the wind power industry, though, where “tight schedules” and short-term specialised equipment rentals should offset the downside risk to BloombergNEF’s 75.4GW demand forecast for the year – a figure that would make 2020 a record year for wind build.