Homeowners and developers installed 1.33 gigawatts of solar panels in the first quarter, the second-largest total on record, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Installation increased 79 percent from the same quarter a year earlier with utility-scale projects making up almost two-thirds of the total and homeowner demand surging, the Washington-based trade group said in a statement.
Total installations may reach 6.6 gigawatts this year, driven by residential rooftop systems and more than 12 gigawatts of utility projects under development, said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at Boston-based GTM Research, which publishes the quarterly market reports with SEIA. This was the first quarter when residential systems exceeded commercial and government solar.
Residential solar has “nowhere to go but up,” Kann said. Installation increased 38 percent to 232 megawatts as financing models such as leasing make it easier for homeowners to afford rooftop panels. “The economics just keep getting better.”
Utility-scale solar farms accounted for 873 megawatts, up from 322 megawatts a year earlier, and there were 225 megawatts installed at commercial, government and non-profit projects.
The first-quarter total was lower than the record 2.1 gigawatts installed in the fourth quarter, mainly because of seasonal trends, Kann said.
California accounted for about 72 percent of all installations at 959 megawatts, followed by New Jersey in distant second at 64 megawatts and Arizona at 52 megawatts.
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