A new report shows 2015 shaping up to be the U.S. solar market’s best year in history, with record-breaking fourth quarter projections.

The U.S. installed 1,361 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the third quarter of the year.  According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, Q3 2015, this marks the eighth consecutive quarter in which the U.S. has installed more than a gigawatt of PV capacity.

“This past quarter marked the calm before the storm,” said GTM Research Senior Solar Analyst Cory Honeyman. “The 1-gigawatt mark for quarterly capacity additions will serve as a distant floor as project developers ramp up installations in the next five quarters before the planned step-down of the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit.”

GTM Research expects the fourth quarter of this year to be the largest quarter for solar installations in U.S. history. Led by the utility-scale segment, the United States will install more than 3 gigawatts. Looking further out, cumulative PV installations will nearly double between now and the end of 2016, bringing the nationwide total to 41 gigawatts.

FIGURE: Cumulative U.S. PV Installed Capacity, 2007-2016E

Source: GTM Research/SEIA'sU.S. Solar Market Insight

The utility-scale market continues to lead the U.S. solar market. Utility-scale PV installations made up 42 percent of the nationwide total, while residential installations accounted for 41 percent. Additionally, the residential market hit another new quarterly record as it grew 69 percent year-over-year.

Despite some inconsistencies in the non-residential market, the report notes that this segment also made progress, increasing 4 percent year-over-year and 19 percent over last quarter.

FIGURE: U.S PV Installations, 2010-Q3 2015

Source: GTM Research/SEIA'sU.S. Solar Market Insight

GTM Research forecasts that the U.S. solar PV market as a whole will grow 19 percent over 2014 and will reach 7.4 GW by the end of 2015.

“Year after year, we’re seeing the demand for solar energy in America skyrocket, and the benefits that brings to both our nation’s economy and environment are staggering,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “As we gear up for what’s expected to be an unprecedented year for our industry, and nation, this report reveals just how important it is to maintain smart, effective, forward-looking public policies, like the ITC.”

Key Findings From the Report:
  • The U.S. installed 1,361 megawatts of solar PV in Q3 2015, marking the eighth consecutive quarter in which the U.S. added more than 1 gigawatt of PV installations.
  • Throughout the first three quarters of 2015, 30 percent of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the U.S. came from solar.
  • As of Q3 2015, more than 50 percent of all states in the U.S. have more than 50 megawatts of cumulative solar PV installed.
  • Totaling 18.7 gigawatts, the current utility PV development pipeline is greater than all U.S. PV installations brought on-line through the end of 2014.
  • GTM Research forecasts that 7.4 GWdc of new PV installations will come on-line in 2015, up 19 percent over 2014. Growth will occur in the residential and utility PV segments, while for the second straight year, non-residential solar will dip 5 percent.

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For more findings and data, download the free executive summary here.