Despite pandemic, U.S. solar PV shipments reached a record high in 2020

U.S. shipments of solar photovoltaic modules — including imports, exports, and modules produced domestically — reached a record 21.8 million peak kilowatts in 2020, despite global pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.

Data released by the Energy Information Administration shows U.S. solar PV shipments increased by 33% last year, an increase of 5.4 million peak kW from 2019.

“Demand for residential solar installations increased in 2020 in part because people were spending more time at home, which in turn resulted in an increased interest in home improvement,” the report notes. “Other reasons for the increase in shipments include expiring solar tax credits, continued growth in utility-scale solar capacity, and falling costs for solar systems.”

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U.S. solar market set a record for quarterly installations with over 8 GWdc of solar PV, with utility-scale projects rushing to meet “the previously anticipated decline in the investment tax credit rate,” which was set to decrease from 26% to 22% at the end of 2020. The $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation process in the U.S. Congress is expected to include an extension to the ITC.

Steadily declining costs of solar PV modules since 2010 has fueled the growth in the U.S. market. The average value of solar shipments decreased from $1.96 per peak watt in 2010 to $0.38 per peak watt in 2020.

Earlier this week, solar PV manufacturer Silfab Solar announced that it has doubled its manufacturing capacity in the U.S. with the launch of a new facility in Washington state. The company’s highly-automated Burlington facility, located just 24 miles north of its Bellingham PV module assembly plant, is focusing on the Silfab Prime 370wt series module.

Silfab manufactures back-contact and mono PERC PV modules for the North American residential and commercial markets. The company also has facilities in Toronto, Canada.

In August, Canadian-based solar panel module manufacturer Heliene launched a new facility in Riviera Beach, Florida, its third in North America. Heliene is taking over the facility previously occupied by SolarTech Universal, which closed over a year ago, to produce its 66-cell HJT 370W module.

WATCH: Heliene CEO Martin Pochtaruk joined Renewable Energy World Content Director John Engel to discuss the new facility, global solar supply chain pressures, and the growth opportunity with heterojunction solar cell modules.

According to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data recently released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) dominated new U.S. electrical generating capacity additions and increased their contribution to the nation’s electrical production in the first half of 2021.

FERC’s latest monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report (with data through June 30, 2021) reveals that renewable energy sources accounted for 91.6% – or 10,940 megawatts (MW) – of the 11,940 MW of new capacity added during the first six months of the year. Wind led the capacity additions with 5,617 MW, followed closely by solar (5,279 MW). Further, wind and solar were the only sources of new capacity additions in June 2021. 

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