Solar Power, Solar Donuts, and a Landmark 20-Gigawatt Milestone

, Senior energy analyst | March 11, 2015, 3:09 pm EDT
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I’m just back from the annual PV America conference, where the talk was all about the great stuff happening, solar-wise, and what it’ll take to keep it going. And now the official industry figures for U.S. solar’s 2014 performance have just come out, putting some hard numbers—and donuts—on the table. And there’s a lot of good news in there.

The latest GTM-SEIA Solar Market Insight report looks at progress for both photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP). One notable graphic is the “donut map” of PV installations by state, which hints at the broad range of policies, focuses, and opportunities across the country. Here are a few donut-centered results worth celebrating.

GTM-SEIA 2014 year-end PV results by state

Solar donuts come in different sizes

The first thing that jumps out at you from the report’s “donut map” might be the different sizes of the pastries, but also how many big ones there are, and where.

California dominates, no question about it. (Note the asterisk about “not to scale.”)

But it’s clear that solar made a strong showing in 2014 also in the Southwest (Nevada, in particular), the Southeast (see North Carolina), and the Northeast (Massachusetts, New Jersey). And, the report points out, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, and other states have been growing even more quickly than California lately.

Solar donuts come in many flavors

The next takeaway is the variety of flavors in this particular donut collection—the different mixes of utility, commercial, and residential.

  • Utility installations take the cake, as it were, in North Carolina, Nevada, and many smaller-donut states in between.
  • The non-residential market (installations on businesses, for example) is a big piece of the picture in Massachusetts and New Jersey.
  • Residential systems dominate the donuts in Hawaii, Washington, Colorado, and New York.

    GTM-SEIA annual U.S. PV installations

The solar donuts are getting fatter

Beyond the donut map, the report has stats on a range of topics that testify to solar’s impressive progress, such as:

  • New capacity. Solar had its best year ever, with 6,200 megawatts (MW*) of new PV capacity installed during 2014, and another 767 MW of new CSP.
  • New milestone. With those 2014 additions, solar sprinted past the 20 gigawatt (GW, or 1,000 MW) mark for total solar capacity. That total includes 18.3 GW of PV, and 2.2 GW of CSP, and is enough to power the equivalent of some 4 million efficient homes.
  • New houses. The additions included new systems on 186,000 U.S. homes. That progress, plus progress in systems on commercial rooftops, means that more than 600,000 homes and businesses have solar on-site. GTM and SEIA predict that the residential sector will be the fastest growing segment of the market for PV.

And there’s lots more to come. The report does include some notes of caution—about ongoing regulatory proceedings and tax credit issues that might put a dent in solar’s progress, for example, taking a bite out of residential solar customers’ donuts or utility solar progress. But it concludes that, “Without question, 2015 will be another growth year for U.S. solar.”

So maybe celebrate the latest solar results by sharing a donut with a friend (or two). And celebrate the fact that, unlike the sugar-and-fat versions, solar donuts are good for us. Good news indeed.

*Just to keep things straight (as we like to do): the GTM-SEIA figures are the direct-current (DC) ones for PV, and alternative-current (AC) for CSP.

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