Continuing on its record-breaking trajectory, the United States solar industry surpassed 20 gigawatts of total operational solar photovoltaic capacity during the second quarter of this year. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Q2 2015 U.S. Solar Market Insight report, the U.S. installed 1,393 megawatts of PV last quarter, showcasing both annual and quarterly growth.

FIGURE: U.S. PV Installations, 2010-Q2 2015

Source: GTM Research/SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight

The residential solar market set yet another quarterly record in the second quarter. With 473 megawatts installed, the segment grew 70 percent year-over-year. On top of that, the residential market is diversifying, with 10 states each installing more than 10 megawatts in the quarter. This shows significant growth from the same quarter of 2013 when only four states installed that much residential solar.

The non-residential market finished the quarter down 33 percent from the same period last year. However, the ongoing growth of community solar across the U.S., along with improving market dynamics in several states and continued financial innovation, suggest stronger growth in this segment in the second half of 2015 and beyond. 

According to the report, 729 megawatts of utility-scale solar PV came on-line in the second quarter of the year, representing more than half (52 percent) of the nation’s quarterly total. With the federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) scheduled to drop at the end of 2016, utility-scale development is at an all-time high with more than 5 gigawatts of capacity currently under construction.

“The utility PV market continues to be the bedrock driver of new installation growth. And in the second half of this year through 2016, growth will reach new heights as a higher share of what comes on-line stems from projects procured purely based on centralized solar’s cost-competitiveness,” said Shayle Kann, senior vice president at GTM Research.

FIGURE: Utility PV Pipeline

Source: GTM Research/SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight

The U.S. installed 2.7 gigawatts of PV in the first six months of 2015. With significant growth expected in the second half of the year, the U.S. is on pace for a record-breaking 7.7-gigawatt year.

“The demand for solar energy is now higher than ever, and this report spells out how crucial it is for America to maintain smart, effective, forward-looking public policies, like the ITC, beyond 2016,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “At over 20 gigawatts of installed solar electric capacity, we now have enough solar in the U.S. to power 4.6 million homes, reducing harmful carbon emissions by more than 25 million metric tons a year. Since the ITC was passed in 2006, U.S. solar growth has exploded and more than 150,000 American solar jobs have been created. By any measurement, that’s a success for both our economy and environment.”

More Key Findings:

  • The U.S. installed 1,393 megawatts of solar PV in Q2 2015, marking the seventh consecutive quarter in which the U.S. added more than 1 gigawatt of PV installations.
  • Q2 2015 was a milestone quarter for the U.S. solar PV market, with cumulative installations eclipsing the 20-gigawatt mark.
  • Throughout the first half of 2015, 40 percent of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the U.S. came from solar.
  • 21 states have now added more than 100 megawatts of solar PV, but the top five states still account for nearly three-fourths of cumulative U.S. PV installations.
  • 40 percent of the 16.6-gigawatt utility PV pipeline in development has been procured primarily due to solar’s economic competitiveness with fossil-fuel alternatives.  
  • We forecast that PV installations will reach 7.7 gigawatts in 2015, up 24 percent over 2014. Growth will occur in all segments, but will be strongest in the residential market.

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We'll provide more findings from the report at the U.S. Solar Market Insight Conference in November.