Arizona’s solar market was one of the fastest-growing in the country during the first quarter, expanding by more than 5 percent, according to a new report.
Arizona added 168 megawatts during the first quarter of 2017, which is the third highest in the U.S. behind California and North Carolina, respectively, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report.
To put a finer point on that 5 percent growth, 5 percent of all solar ever installed in the state came in January, February and March, said Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s vice president of state affairs.
“That’s impressive, especially when it follows 2016 when the state’s capacity grew 31 percent and its solar jobs grew 6 percent,” Gallagher said. “The solar industry is looking forward to pending rate cases to be concluded to provide certainty so the state can continue to move forward.”
Arizona ranked 7th in 2016 with its solar installations and 5th in 2015.
With the state’s solar capacity growing 31 percent in the past 12 months, that now totals 3,151.3 megawatts installed statewide.
The forecast is strong for the state, with Arizona expected to more than double its solar capacity in the next five years, according to the report’s data.
McCarthy installed 58,000 kilowatts locally in 2016 and has 495 local employees.
Dhruv Patel, vice president of engineering, procurement and construction for McCarthy’s renewable energy team, said 2017 for them has been “relatively slow” so far, about half of what 2016 was, but they expect to see lots of growth in the future.
“Overall, a lot of new projects are expected in 2018 and 2019. They’re in the planning stages now,” Patel said. “We are expecting exponential growth from coast to coast in utility-scale solar developments. In fact, it’s fair to say that we expect to see a record number of installations in utility-scale, commercial and residential installations in the coming years.”
Patel attributes the growth to a couple key factors.
“The biggest factor in the growth can be attributed to the ITC (investment tax credit) being extended to remain at 30 percent until 2019, and the stair-step approach from then until 2022,” he said. “Secondarily, the cost of materials has reduced significantly in recent years.”
Nationally, solar has become even more attractive as the costs have fallen below $1 a watt for the first time.
“The solar market clearly remains on a strong upward trajectory,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Solar is delivering more clean energy, adding jobs 17 times faster than the U.S. economy, and creating tens of billions of dollars in investment. With its cost-competitiveness, we know solar will continue to play a growing role in America’s energy portfolio.”
The solar industry added more than 2 gigawatts this quarter for the sixth straight quarter.
This fast growth shows the meteoric climb since the total U.S. solar capacity was just 2 gigawatts five years ago, according to the report.
With more solar comes more jobs. There are now 260,000 solar jobs across the country.
The solar industry is expecting big things this year following the 98 percent record-shattering growth increase last year.
Hayley Ringle covers technology and startups for the Phoenix Business Journal.