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Solar Growth Slowed in 2021, but 2022 Shows Promising Signs


By Greg Zimmerman Green
solar panels

Solar capacity in the U.S. continued to grow in 2021, but the growth slowed, largely due to supply chain issues, according to experts in the solar industry. Another reason for the stall is the uncertainty around, and then ultimate failure of, President Biden’s Build Back Better initiative, which would’ve been a huge boon for solar installations. Finally, inflation and cost of materials is also slowing growth.  

But there is still strong demand across the U.S. for solar. Government forecasters predict that the U.S. will add 21.5 GW of solar capacity in 2022, which is more than half of the already existing capacity, and well more than the 15.5 GW added in 2021, according to the Financial Times. Even with remaining uncertainty and though some forecasters have cut their predictions for this year, most agree that next year in 2023, as we finally emerge from the pandemic, will be the best solar year ever, with predictions of up to 30 GW of added capacity.  

One of the biggest areas of expansion in 2021, a trend which will likely continue in 2022 and beyond, is utility-scale solar projects. Wisconsin, a northern state that wouldn’t immediately jump out as a huge solar state, for instance, added 300 MW of utility-scale solar, its biggest year ever for solar addition, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. These huge solar projects represent the majority of solar addition nationally, and while the continued growth of building-level and residential projects is still crucial to meeting climate change mitigation goals across the country, the most hay in solar growth will still be made with utility-scale projects, say experts. 

Community solar continues to grow, as well. Community solar is a system by which a private firm develop a solar farm, and then sells subscriptions for a share of the electricity produced. Community solar is an ideal option for business and homeowners that don’t have the option of installing solar on their properties, often saving money on their energy bill in the process. Currently, 41 states have community solar projects totally about 3.6 gigawatts of capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.  

For a complete set of data showing how much solar has grown in the last several years, check out SEIA’s resource page. The page has statistics for total installed solar by year, state, etc., as well as the growth in high-paying solar jobs, and data on the cost of solar.  

Greg Zimmerman is editor, Building Operating Management magazine and FacilitiesNet.com.

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