Residential Solar Beats Commercial in a Big Quarter for U.S. Solar Power


2014 starts out as a good year for solar power, with 74% of new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in Q1 2014 coming from solar. For the first time ever, in the first quarter of 2014, the U.S. installed more residential than commercial solar. 

Big news today for residential solar: For the first time ever, in the first quarter of 2014, the U.S. installed more residential than commercial solar. At 232 MW for residential solar versus 225 MW for commercial, both sectors were strong, and when you add utility-scale, the U.S. installed a total of 1330 MW of solar PV in the quarter. 

That brings the U.S. solar PV total to 14.8 GW installed capacity, enough to power 3 million homes.


As if that weren’t enough, a huge 74% of new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in Q1 2014 came from solar.


Solar dominance


The numbers come from the Q1 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report just released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA).


According to GTM Research and SEIA, the change in the solar mix was due to ongoing strength in the residential sector and volatility in the non-residential market. A significant finding was that for the first time ever, in Q1 2014 more than one-third of residential PV installations came online without any state incentive.


The organizations still expect the non-residential solar PV market to rebound and exceed the residential market for the full year.


The utility PV market continued its dominance, growing 171% between Q1 2013 and Q1 2014. With 873 MW installed, it accounted for two-thirds of total installations during the quarter. Large-scale projects that were under contracts and negotiations between 2010 and 2012 are now becoming a reality.


Q1 2014 was the largest ever for concentrating solar power (CSP), with the completion of the 392 MW (AC) Ivanpah project and the Genesis Solar project’s second 125 MW (AC) phase. With a total of 857 MW expected to be completed by year’s end, 2014, is expected to be the largest year ever for CSP.


By sector


“Solar accounted for 74% of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in Q1 2014, further signaling the rapidly increasing role that solar is playing in the energy market,” said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research.


The U.S. solar market is off to a strong start in 2014. GTM Research and SEIA forecast 6.6 GW of PV will be installed in the U.S. by the end of the year, up 39% over 2013.


“Solar energy is now generating enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to effectively power 3 million American homes, while creating thousands of new jobs nationwide and pumping nearly $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Solar is also providing a big boost for our environment. The 14,800 megawatts of solar currently installed in the U.S. can generate enough pollution-free electricity to displace 18 billion pounds of coal or 1.8 billion gallons of gasoline. That’s the equivalent of removing 3.5 million passenger cars off our roads and highways. For states trying to meet new, enhanced air quality standards, solar can be a real game changer.”


Other key findings:


  • The 1330 MW of solar PV installed in the U.S. in Q1 2014 was up 79% over Q1 2013 and made it the second-largest quarter for solar installations in the history of the market.

  • Cumulative operating PV capacity stood at 13,395 MW (DC) with 482,000 individual systems online as of the end of Q1 2014.

  • PV growth was driven primarily by the utility solar market, whose 873 MW installed in Q1 2014 was up from 322 MW in Q1 2013.

  • Q1 2014 saw school, government, and non-profit PV installations add more than 100 MW for the second straight quarter.

  • Cumulative operating CSP capacity was 1435 MW (AC) as of the end of Q1 2014.