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Solar energy installations in the US have reached 5GW during the first quarter of 2021, marking a 46% increase over the same period last year and a new first-quarter record, a new study released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie has revealed.

With the new record, solar accounted for 58% of all new electric capacity additions made in the US as renewables represented 100% of all energy additions made during the first quarter of 2021, according to the US Solar Market Insight Q2 2021 report.

Utilities led in terms of installations with 3.6GW, whilst the residential segment grew by 11% compared to the same period last year to reach 905MW. The commercial sector grew by 19% from Q1 2020 and the community solar sector declined 15% from Q1 2020.

Texas led all states with 1.52GW of new solar energy capacity in Q1, more than it added in all of 2019 and three times more than any other state.

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Indiana, Virginia, Michigan, and Iowa were among the top 10 solar states this quarter. 

Despite federal regulation of the previous administration hindering the adoption of renewable energy, the solar market has managed to double its size compared to the last 3 to 5 years.

Abigail Ross Hopper, the CEO of SEIA, said: “It’s incredible to see the solar industry pass 100 gigawatts after the policy and regulatory hurdles we’ve faced over the last few years.

“While we’re poised for more growth, we must accelerate solar and storage deployment to address the climate crisis and reach President Biden’s ambitious clean energy goals.

“Long-term policy certainty is the best way to do that, and we’re urging Congress to act this summer.” 

Regulation, including the Solar Investment Tax Credit, is expected to continue to encourage increased deployment of solar projects over the next three years. Between 2021 and 2026, Wood Mackenzie anticipates a total of 160GW to be installed to bring the US’ total capacity to 250GW by the end of 2026.

However, the rising costs of raw materials such as copper, steel and aluminium are expected to result in an increase in the costs of solar and deployment, thereby hindering increased adoption. As such, Wood Mackenzie is calling upon regulators and stakeholders to address the rising costs.

Michelle Davis, principal analyst and lead author of the report, said: “Demand for solar power continues to grow, but attention is now turning to supply chain constraints, which have heightened since the latter half of 2020.

“There is a lag between commodity prices and subsequent solar system prices. But there’s no doubt this is impacting the solar industry. Installers are managing current equipment shortages and having to decide whether to renegotiate contracts.”  

The exact effects of supply chain constraints will continue to manifest over the coming quarters. Future reports will provide additional analysis on the changes happening in the solar industry. 

Find out more about the report.