US solar installations slow because of climate goals

The pace of new US solar installations decelerated last year, for the first time since 2018, falling short of targets for cutting carbon emissions from electricity supplies.

According to a report released on Thursday by Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industry Association, the additional 20.2 gigawatts of generating capacity equates to a 16% decrease from 2021 due to “constraints on the policy-driven supply”. Obstacles to larger deployment include trade restrictions and supply chain issues.

The drop came even though the state level clean energy promote and oppose US president Joe Biden’s goal of halving emissions by the end of the decade. Installations are expected to recover this year, thanks in part to new federal green subsidies included in the landmark Inflation Reduction Act passed last August.

However, solar trade groups warn government support does not alleviate other obstacles to the country’s energy transition.

“The IRA alone will not create the clean energy revolution we anticipate,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president of SEIA. Hopper said the industry is expected to grow rapidly, but “there are some sizable challenges threatening its potential.”

Column chart of US solar installations and forecasts by segment (TWdc) shows US solar deployment fell for the first time in nearly half a decade in 2022 but is poised for rapid growth

The supply chain is exacerbated by trade restrictions that have strained the supply of modules. Larger solar projects supplying electricity to the grid were hardest hit, with installations falling 31 percent due to investigations into tax evasion by Chinese manufacturers and US customs. confiscated modules related to forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region, according to Wood Mackenzie and SEIA.

Solar, wind and solar energy worth more than 53GW electricity storage projects have been delayed since the fourth quarter of 2022, with solar accounting for nearly two-thirds of all projects, according to estimates from American Clean Power, an industry association. Developers say supply chain challenges persist during solar development, with wait times for devices such as transformers now extending to more than a year.

Once solar projects are built, they face lengthy delays in connecting to the grid, a cumbersome process known as interconnection. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the typical waiting time is more than four years.

According to American Clean Power, approximately 360GW of solar capacity was waiting to be connected to the grid last quarter, approximately one-third of the total capacity pending connection and nearly five times the current solar operating capacity.

Grid operator capacity in queue, Q4 2022 (GW) bar graph showing more than a third of grid pending capacity

“The ability to decarbonize this country and achieve our goals is 100 percent tied to our ability to decarbonize it,” said Michelle Davis, Wood Mackenzie’s principal solar analyst and lead author of the report. ability to improve our grid infrastructure.

Part of the reason for the backlog is the need for more power transmission lines over long distances. A recent draft study by the US Department of Energy estimated the national transmission system would need 57 percent growth to meet the growth of the electricity sector supported by legislation such as the recent bipartisan infrastructure legislation and the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Unless we find a way to get through these processes faster, roll out the upgrade faster, we will,” said CJ Colavito, vice president of engineering at Standard Solar, a developer. see a long delay. “It will slow down the industry’s ability to develop and deploy solar the way we need it.”


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