The United States currently has in excess of 43 GW currently waiting in its solar PV project pipeline awaiting completion, up 7% during the past 12 months and — upon completion — enough to power 6 million US homes. Furthermore, where previously it was large projects sized over 100 MW that dominated the US PV pipeline, that has shifted, according to research done by NPD Solarbuzz, shifting to smaller projects up to 30 MW in size.
“The increase in new solar PV projects being planned or under construction is driving double-digit annual growth forecasts for PV adoption within the United States,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “Large-scale PV projects exceeding 20 megawatts continue to dominate the pipeline, in terms of installed capacity, stimulated by state-based renewable portfolio mandates. Projects of all sizes have become increasingly viable, due to declines in solar PV system pricing in the past year.”
This growth and the length of the PV pipeline is a key factor in driving the positive outlook for the US PV industry, an industry now forecast to grow to become the third-largest solar PV market in the world during 2014, following China and Japan respectively.
Figure 1: Completion Status for 43 GW US Solar PV Project Pipeline
Given the need to place solar PV projects into production by the end of 2016 to qualify for the US Investment Tax Credit of 30%, solar PV developers have had to transition faster from “pre-planning” and “planning” to “under-construction” and “installed”.
“With just three years remaining until the full tax credit incentive rate declines, solar PV project developers in the United States are now planning to complete projects, or have a significant portion under construction, prior to the 2017 deadline,” according to Christine Beadle, analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “This deadline is causing a shift in focus to smaller projects that can be completed on shorter timescales.”
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association the ITC has already “helped annual solar installation grow by over 1,600% since the ITC was implemented in 2006″ and “provides market certainty for companies to develop long-term investments that drive competition and technological innovation.”
The short-term US solar PV deployment pipeline is currently dominated by several “mega-scale” PV projects which exceed 100 MW in size: the Mount Signal Solar, Copper Mountain, Calexico, Desert Sunlight, and Topaz projects. Despite this, developers have seen the value of the sub-30 MW projects, a category which has increased by 33% over the past 12 months, increasing to more than 2,100 projects.
Figure 2: Distribution of More Than 2,400 Projects in the US PV Pipeline (50 kW or Larger)
Source: Clean Technica. Reproduced with permission.