U.S. solar generating capacity saw record growth in 2020 even though the COVID-19 pandemic stalled many projects, according to industry data released Tuesday.
The growth can be attributed partly to increasing cost competitiveness, but also to the continued support of state and federal policies that aid new building projects, Axios noted. The extension was part of 2020's year-end spending and tax deal that has solar projects expected to increase by 17% between this year and 2025.
Installations rose 43% last year to 19.2 gigawatt (GW), an annual record for the industry. Utility-scale projects, which account for most of the market, experienced only minor disruptions due to coronavirus pandemic-related shutdowns. Residential installations took a large hit in the second quarter due to the pandemic, but ended the year up 11% at a record 3.1 GW.
Late last year, Congress extended a 26% tax credit that helps reduce the cost of solar facilities as part of a package to provide coronavirus aid and fund the U.S. government.
But the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said, citing a report issued jointly with Wood Mackenzie, that further tax incentives, the lifting of tariffs on overseas-made panels, and workforce training was necessary for the United States to cut enough greenhouse gas output to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
"We need policy in all of those areas so that we can not just grow on the path that we're on, but accelerate that growth," SEIA President Abigail Ross Hopper said in an interview.
"After a slowdown in Q2 due to the pandemic, the solar industry innovated and came roaring back to continue our trajectory as America's leading source of new energy," Ross Hopper said. "The forecast shows that by 2030, the equivalent of one in eight American homes will have solar, but we still have a long way to go if we want to reach our goals in the Solar+ Decade. This report makes it clear that smart policies work. The action we take now will determine the pace of our growth and whether we use solar to fuel our economy and meet this climate moment."
Solar installations in the United States are expected to quadruple by 2030 thanks to the extension of a key industry subsidy late last year and booming demand for carbon-free power, the SEIA said.
The sector will install 324 GW of capacity over the next decade, more than three times the nearly 100 GW installed by 2020.
The 324 GW of solar energy would produce enough electricity to power about 60 million homes, or around 40% of homes in the country today.
The outlook reflects both robust demand from utilities and corporations seeking to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals and declining costs for the technology that has buttressed the market for home solar installations.
Just 3% of U.S. electricity is generated from the sun, but SEIA hopes that will rise to 20% over the next decade.
Reuters contributed to this report.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.