By the Blouin News Business staff

U.S. solar installations to double last year’s record high

by in U.S..

(Source: Kevin T. Houle/flickr)

(Source: Kevin T. Houle/flickr)

A report released earlier this month by GTM Research found that solar power is quickly becoming the mainstay for new power sources being added in the U.S. Solar installations rose 24% in the first quarter of this year, accounting for 64% of all new U.S. electric generating capacity during that period. 2015 was a record-breaking year for U.S. solar, with 7.5GW of additional capacity being installed, but this year the country is on track to reach an astonishing 14.5GW of new capacity.

“While it took us 40 years to hit 1 million U.S. solar installations, we’re expected to hit 2 million within the next two years,” said Tom Kimbis, interim president of Solar Energy Industries Association. “The solar industry is growing at warp speed, driven by the fact that solar is one of the lowest-cost options for electricity, and it’s being embraced by people who both care about the environment and want access to affordable and reliable electricity.”

Also of note, in a major vote of confidence, utilities are increasingly investing in large-scale solar arrays. Many were rushed through last year on the expectation that a key federal tax credit would expire at the end of 2016. But to the industry’s relief, that credit was extended by five years at the end of last year. GTM wrote that the extension will spur over 20GW of additional solar capacity by 2021 (although after that bump the utility-scale market is expected to contract in 2017 and 2018).

This is all great news. As Blouin News wrote last month: If the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative succeeds in meeting its deployment goals – for 14% of U.S. electricity demand to be met by solar in 2030 and 27% in 2050 – the environmental and public health benefits throughout the U.S. would exceed $400 billion by 2050. The path forward is obvious.