U.S. solar installations to rebound in 2019 as prices plummet: Woodmac

(Reuters) - New U.S. solar installations will grow by 14 percent this year thanks to lower equipment prices that helped to revive a slew of delayed projects, consultancy Wood Mackenzie said in its latest outlook released on Wednesday.

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The forecast for some 12.1 gigawatts (GW) of solar panels in 2019 would mark a rebound from 2018 when installations dipped 2 percent to 10.6 GW due to President Donald Trump’s decision to impose 30 percent tariffs on imported panels.

In its previous quarterly report on solar released late last year, Wood Mackenzie had forecast just 11.5 GW of solar installations for 2019. A GW of solar is roughly enough to power 700,000 homes.

Despite the Trump administration’s tariffs, U.S. solar module prices have fallen due to improved technology and unforeseen oversupply in major solar developer China, which cut incentives for installations there.

Utility-scale developers in the United States, meanwhile, are seeking to capture tax credits for installations that will begin to step down gradually next year.

The report raised its utility-scale solar market forecast for 2019 by more than 8 percent to 7.8 GW from 7.2 GW, and also boosted its outlook for 2020 and 2021.

Utility-scale projects, which make up more than half the market, were down 3 percent at 6.2 GW in 2018.

Longer-term, the research firm raised its five-year forecast for the overall market by 4 percent to 71 GW from 68.2 GW since its last report. Utilities are including more solar in their long-term plans and corporate customers are increasingly driving procurement, the report said.

Residential installations of solar panels will grow 4 percent to 2.5 GW, after growing in 2018 by 7 percent to 2.4 GW, the report said. States showing the strongest growth last year included California, Florida and Nevada.

The non-residential sector, which includes installations for businesses, will fall 13 percent to 1.8 GW in 2019, the report said. Installations in that sector fell 8 percent in 2018 to 2.1 GW in part due to delays in opening an incentive program in Massachusetts, the report said.

Prices for U.S. solar modules fell to 36 cents per watt last quarter from 48 cents a year earlier, according to the report.

(This story corrects price of solar modules to “per watt” instead of “per module” in the last paragraph)

Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Darren Schuettler