America's swelling solar pipeline

Growth in smaller projects – below 30 MW in size – is driving a positive outlook for the United States PV industry.

NDP SolarBuzz

The pipeline of solar photovoltaic projects awaiting completion within the United States has grown by 7 per cent during the past 12 months, and now exceeds 43 gigawatts, which is enough to power more than six million US households.

Whereas large projects in excess of 100 megawatts previously dominated the US PV pipeline, growth is now being driven by smaller projects up to 30 MW in size, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker report.

The growing project pipeline remains a key factor in driving the positive outlook for the US PV industry, which is now forecast by to become the third-largest solar PV market globally in 2014, after China and Japan.

“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.”

Figure 1: Completion Status for 43 GW US Solar PV Project Pipeline


Graph for America's swelling solar pipeline

Source: NPD Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker report

Developers of solar PV projects in the United States are now being forced to transition more quickly from “pre-planning” and “planning” stages to “under-construction” or “installed” status. This transition is motivated by deadlines to qualify for the full US Investment Tax Credit of 30 per cent.

“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.”

Currently, a few mega-scale PV projects, exceeding 100 MW in size, are dominating short-term US solar PV deployment. These projects include the Mount Signal Solar, Copper Mountain, Calexico, Desert Sunlight, and Topaz projects that are currently under development or proceeding steadily through planned construction phases. The ten largest US solar PV projects account for more than 5 GW of new solar PV capacity coming online during the next three years.

However, the focus of solar PV project developers has now shifted to project sizes below 30 MW. During the past 12 months, the number of projects in the US pipeline within this category has increased by 33 per cent to more than 2100 projects. Smaller PV projects have shorter planning phases and can be completed quickly.

Figure 2: Distribution of More Than 2400 Projects in the US PV Pipeline (50 kW or Larger)


Graph for America's swelling solar pipeline

Source: NPD Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker report

Originally published by NPD Solarbuzz. Reproduced with permission.

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