US utility-scale solar PV installation improves even as COVID-19 may dampen 2020 installation outlook, says GlobalData

The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted the value chains and impacted power industries worldwide. The US solar industry is no different from the situation with the Q1 witnessing record installations in the first quarter. Even as the utility-scale installation improving, the pandemic is likely to dampen the sentiments and mute the project development activities for the remaining part of the year. As the power demand remains low, delays in project permissions, disruptions in equipment supply chain and reduction in the workforce are likely to pose developmental issues across the value chain, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

After the COVID-19 outbreak, the distributed solar PV capacity market is anticipated to decline by a third approximately compared to the earlier estimated forecast. The annual solar PV capacity was earlier estimated to grow by about 60% over 2019,  however, post-COVID-19, it is estimated to grow by 35-40% over 2019. The growth is largely attributed to the steady performance of the grid-connected utility-scale segment.

Somik Das, Senior Power Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “ The performance of solar PVs in Q1 was not affected because of economic stability in the country and the implementation of the lockdown towards the end of Q1. The effects of the pandemic are likely to be seen in the remainder of the year. However, it is estimated that 2020 will have a lopsided performance with the utility-scale projects likely to constitute about 70% of the 2020 installation, making up for the lacklusture performance of the small scale solar segment. The solar PV annual installations are likely to grow by about 40% compared to 2019.”

However, the large scale projects saw lesser hindrances, whereas the lockdown and the social distancing norms created issues for the small scale and residential projects. With the imposed social distancing norms, the total value chain was affected including the manufacturing, sales, permitting, financing,  installation, and procurement. Hence, estimates suggest that residential projects would likely see a decline of 24-26%.

Mr Das concludes: “Although utility-scale projects have seen a consistent level of procurement so far, the uncertain economic conditions coupled with falling electricity demand and wholesale electricity prices might affect these projects in the future. However, in the present, the solar PV  industry is one of the fastest-growing in the country and has the potential to contribute to the country’s economic recovery in the COVID-19 standstill.”

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