The solar industry grew by 43% last year as the clean energy source led all technologies in new electric-generating capacity added across the US

US solar installations 2020

There were 8GW of new installations in Q4 2020, which marks the largest quarter in US solar history (credit: Shutterstock/only_kim)

The US solar industry experienced a record year for installations in 2020, according to a report.

The analysis by energy researcher Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) revealed that the industry grew by 43% and installed a record 19.2 gigawatts (GW) of capacity last year.

The report, titled U.S. Solar Market Insight 2020 Year-in-Review, shows that for the second year in a row, solar led all technologies in new electric-generating capacity added. According to Wood Mackenzie’s 10-year forecast, the nation’s solar industry will install a cumulative 324GW of new capacity to reach a total of 419GW over the next decade.

“After a slowdown in Q2 due to the pandemic, the solar industry innovated and came roaring back to continue our trajectory as America’s leading source of new energy,” said SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper.

“The forecast shows that by 2030, the equivalent of one in eight American homes will have solar, but we still have a long way to go if we want to reach our goals in the Solar+ Decade.

“This report makes it clear that smart policies work. The action we take now will determine the pace of our growth and whether we use solar to fuel our economy and meet this climate moment.”

 

Q4 2020 the largest quarter for US solar industry installations in history

The report notes that there were 8GW of new installations in Q4 2020, which marks the largest quarter in US solar history. For perspective, the nation’s solar market added 7.5GW of new capacity in all of 2015.

New capacity additions in 2020 represent a 43% increase from 2019 and breaks the US solar market’s previous record of 15.1GW set in 2016.

US solar installations 2020
Wood Mackenzie’s US solar PV installations forecast up until 2030 (Credit: Wood Mackenzie)

This is the first time Wood Mackenzie has released a long-term forecast as part of its US Solar Market Insight report series. By 2030, the energy researcher is forecasting that the total operating solar fleet will more than quadruple.

“The recent two-year extension of the investment tax credit (ITC) will drive greater solar adoption through 2025,” said Wood Mackenzie senior analyst Michelle Davis.

“Compelling economics for distributed and utility-scale solar along with decarbonisation commitments from numerous stakeholders will result in a landmark installation rate of over 50GW by the end of the decade.”

The report notes that California, Texas and Florida are the top three states for annual solar capacity additions for the second straight year, and Virginia joins them as a fourth state installing over 1GW of solar PV. In 2020, 27 states installed over 100 megawatts of new solar capacity – marking a new record.