US to Become World’s Second-Largest Solar Market in 2016

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The United States is on track to become the world’s second largest market for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in 2016, overtaking current number two, Japan. The United States is also expected to maintain its number two ranking, behind China, through 2020, although it will close the gap with the world leader.

India, currently fourth in the ranking, will attain a strong number three ranking as the Japanese market continues to slide.

The data were reported Wednesday by solar industry research firm GTM Research.

The leading U.S. residential solar company, with a market share of 35%, is SolarCity Corp. (NASDAQ: SCTY). Vivint Solar Inc. (NYSE: VSLR) and Sunrun Inc. (NASDAQ: RUN) each claim about 10% share. SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR) and privately held Sunnova each hold about 5%. These five companies account for about two-thirds of the residential solar financing market in the country.

GTM Research estimates that module prices will drop to $0.55 per watt by the fourth quarter of this year and will continue to fall at an annualized rate of 5% per year, reaching about $0.44 per watt in 2020.

Two companies dominate the module-level power electronics market: SolarEdge Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: SEDG), which makes optimizers, and Enphase Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: ENPH), which makes microinverters, combine to own 93% of the market. SolarEdge grew its leading position over Enphase, growing shipments by 117% relative to 2014. Enphase shipments increased 23%. Optimizers represented about 63% of the total module-level power electronics market in 2015.

Residential PV installations totaled nearly 2,100 megawatts in 2015, up 66% compared with 2014. Nonresidential PV installations slipped 4% year over year to just over 1,000 megawatts. Utility-scale installations totaled 4,150 megawatts last year, the first year that installations have topped 4,000 megawatts.