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3 August 2022

US utility-scale renewables stunted in 2022

The American Clean Power Association (ACP) has produced its Q2 Market Report, finding that US utility-scale solar installations are down 53% from Q1 at 1,575 MW, and wind down a still more severe 78% to 620 MW. Batteries grew an anemic 13% to 992 MW.

The Association finds that 21 GW of solar is currently delayed across the US – compared to 22.8 GW which it identifies as under construction, and 50.9 GW under development. For renewables in general the report identifies 8 GW delayed in just Q2, now scattered through to 2026, and 11 GW of the capacity which was to be commissioned from June to December this year has been delayed.

It attributes the delays to the April-to-June period in which Department of Commerce shut down Chinese imports, not to mention other hostile trade actions, rising module costs, and China’s port city lockdowns earlier in the year. Clean power additions in general were also down by 55% from Q1 to 3,188 MW, with transmission constraints an industry-spanning negative factor.

One source of optimism is the solar import statistics from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), recently published for 2021, which show module shipments growing by one-third in 2021 to 28.8 GW, worth $9.8 billion. Deducting exports from that figure leaves us with a supply of 27.6 GW, of which 4.3 GW was domestic manufacture. Under President Biden’s tariff moratorium, we can expect an inundation of imported modules for the next 24 months from South-East Asia, while the going is still good – perhaps as much as 30 GW will be imported this year despite the interruptions that lasted until June, and in 2023 and H1 2024 even more will be brought in.

EIA figures show Texas catching up to California on annual solar installations, rising from 58% of California’s performance in 2019, to 85% in 2021 with 4.3 GW installed. ACP’s pipeline statistics imply this trend will continue, as the Association has found 14.1 GW planned in Texas and only 7.7 GW in transmission-constrained California. The number three spot is Indiana, reflecting a rise in activity in the Midwest, alongside Illinois with its surge of installations from 206 MW in 2020 to 1.1 GW in 2021.

While EIA statistics are not in for June, extrapolating from April and May produces figures showing a 12.9% year-on-year decline in US utility-scale installations in the first half of 2022, while rooftop grew by 31%.

Another point of growth, identified by the ACP, is that PPAs are up by 35% from Q1 and by 27% from Q2 2021, reaching 8.5 GW, with 3.2 GW coming from Amazon. Batteries reached 5% of PPA activity, with solar at 71% and wind at 11%. But even here utility-scale is down – PPAs have only been able to grow thanks to commercial installations, which are up 66%.