Utility scale solar drove solar installations in 2016. According to GTM Research, utility scale solar more than doubled in 2016 with installations surpassing 10 GW. This boom can largely be attributed to the rush around the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit at the end of 2015. Developers across the board hurried to secure projects, which led to an unprecedented pipeline, most of which was contractually obligated to start operation by the end of 2016.
Throughout 2017, large utility-scale projects will continue to come online. While the traditional solar states will remain strong, new states – Idaho, Maine, Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky and others – are entering the utility-scale solar game. States with existing utility-scale solar projects, such as Florida and Georgia, are currently super-sizing existing capacity. According to GTM Research, there are nearly 18 GW of upcoming utility-scale solar projects under contract for the next two to three years. This will double the homes powered by utility-scale solar, reaching close to 10 million U.S. homes.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative achieved its target of reducing the cost of utility-scale systems to 6 ct/kWh three years ahead of schedule and aims to further reduce costs to 3 ct/kWh by 2030 or much sooner as some predict. As utility-scale solar costs continue to drop, further growth in the sector is expected.