According to the Q1 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight report released last week, the U.S. installed 1,330 megawatts of PV in the first quarter of the year. This is the second-biggest quarter in the history of the U.S. solar industry and by far the largest first quarter ever.
The chart below illustrates the nearly tenfold growth the PV market has seen over the past five first quarters.
Historically, the first quarter of the year is the low point for the PV market, accounting for 16 percent of annual installations between 2010 and 2013. In contrast, the last three months of the year see, on average, 40 percent of all annual installations.
GTM Research solar analyst Cory Honeyman notes that the market is cyclical, with the majority of residential and commercial contracts being signed during the warmer months when energy bills are higher. Sales slow during the winter and holiday season, which results in a lack of installations in January through March.
The historic first quarter of 2014 was a result of the residential market's continued success and an increased pressure to complete utility-scale PV projects before the federal ITC is scheduled to expire in 2017. Honeyman also cites several 100-megawatt projects that came on-line during the period.
Honeyman is already seeing positive signs of a comeback for the commercial market. "Because this year's polar vortex delayed project development deadlines, Massachusetts saw more non-residential installations come on-line in April 2014 than in the first three months of 2014 combined."
GTM Research and SEIA forecast 6.6 gigawatts of PV will be installed in the U.S. by the end of the year, up 39 percent over 2013.
Download the report's free executive summary here.