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Residential solar market has its best year ever in 2019

March 19th, 2020 | By Roger Kuznia

Home solar panels on roof

More proof that the U.S. solar industry keeps growing came Tuesday with news that solar accounted for 40% of all new electric generating capacity in the nation in 2019 – more than any other source.

A record 2.8 gigawatts of the 13.3 gigawatts of solar installed in 2019 came in the residential market, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2019 Year-in-Review report, released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie. The number shows the appeal of generating electricity with solar panels instead of relying on traditional grid sources such as coal and natural gas. That residential number is 15 percent higher than it was in 2018.

Wait, how many watts are in a gigawatt?

How much is 13.3 gigawatts? Glad you asked. One gigawatt equals 1 billion watts, so our full number is actually 13.3 billion watts. Dividing that number by 300, which is an approximate wattage of many solar panels, and that would mean approximately 45 million solar panels were installed in 2019. If we’re talking just about the residential side, that’s about 9 million solar panels.

The 13.3 gigawatts of solar installed in 2019 is 23 percent higher than 2018, and total operating capacity is now more than 77 megawatts. The 13.3 gigawatts installed in 2019 account for approximately 17 percent of all the solar PV capacity in the U.S. Just think, solar PV capacity didn’t even reach 1 gigawatt until 2009, meaning that most of solar’s growth has come in the last 11 years.

“Even as tariffs have slowed our growth, we’ve always said that the solar industry is resilient, and this report demonstrates that,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “We know anecdotally that the [coronavirus] pandemic is affecting delivery schedules and our ability to meet project completion deadlines based partly on new labor 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.”

What is the solar projection for 2020 and beyond?

This report projects that total installed solar PV capacity in the U.S. will rise by 47 percent in 2020 to nearly 20 gigawatts of solar installed, but it also mentions that those numbers may need to be reworked as the impacts of the coronavirus become clearer. But when coronavirus is not an issue, those numbers just how much people believe in the value of solar.

But it’s not just residential customers seeing the value in solar. The utility-scale market added 8.4 GW of new capacity in 2019, with 4.4 GW of that coming in the final quarter of 2019. That’s the second-largest quarter in history for this segment. Even more interesting is that there is 48.1 GW of new capacity in the pipeline, which is another indication of solar’s allure.

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