Solar panel installations dip in 2018: report

Solar panel installations dip in 2018: report
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The growth of solar installations across the U.S. dipped in 2018, according to a new report out Wednesday.

Solar installations were down 2 percent from 2017, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) latest report. Nonresidential solar photovoltaic capacity saw an annual decline of 8 percent, with utility-scale solar use contracting dropping 7 percent in 2018.

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The drop is being attributed to tariffs that the Trump administration placed on foreign imports of aluminum and steel last February, which solar companies relied on for the creation of solar cells used to create electrical energy.

Last year it was estimated that the tariffs led to the cancelation and freezing of investments of more than $2.5 billion in large installation projects, as well as thousands of solar jobs. At least one major U.S. solar company had to lay off a significant portion of its workforce following the tariffs. Some companies were later able to gain an exemption from the rule.

“The solar industry experienced growing pains in 2018, in large part due to the unnecessary tariffs that were imposed on solar cells and modules, but this report still finds significant reason for optimism,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA president.

In total, 10.6 gigawatts of solar panels came online in 2018, according to the report.

The report, however, anticipates that solar installations will soon rebound next year and in following years. Installed photovoltaic capacity is expected to increase by 14 percent in 2019, with installations reaching 15.8 gigawatts by 2021, according to the study.

“The total amount of solar installed in America is on track to more than double in the next five years, proving solar’s resiliency and its economic strength. It’s clear, this next decade is going to be one of significant growth,” said Hopper.

Solar industry representatives remain optimistic about the future of the solar industry, a key element for any renewable energy infrastructure. While numbers dropped last year, they are 42 percent higher than 2015 numbers, according to the study. Solar remains the fastest growing renewable energy source.

However, the study showed that solar’s success was still closely tied to the growing use of cheap natural gas. While solar photovoltaic systems accounted for 29 percent of new electricity generating capacity additions in 2018, numbers last year were slightly down from 2017 due to a surge in new natural gas plants.