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U.S. Installs 11.8 GW of Solar Energy in Record Q1

Photograph of solar panels with text overlay 'U.S. Installs 11.8 GW of Solar Energy in Record Q1'

The first quarter of 2024 saw the U.S. bring online a record 11 GW of solar module manufacturing capacity. By the end of the quarter, American module manufacturing capacity had nearly doubled to 27 GW. This growth sets the country on a path to nearly 40 GW of installations this year, close to last year's record, according to a quarterly market report by Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

U.S. Installs Record 11.8 GW of Solar Energy in Q1 2024

In the first quarter of 2024, the United States witnessed a significant surge in solar energy production, driven by unprecedented growth in solar module manufacturing capacity. The installation of 11.8 GW of new solar energy marked a record for any first quarter, bolstered by nearly doubling the manufacturing capacity to 27 GW by the quarter's end. This remarkable increase underlines the nation's commitment to expanding its renewable energy infrastructure and sets a strong foundation for achieving the projected near-record 40 GW of installations for the entire year.

In fact, the largest solar project in the U.S. came online in Q1 of 2024. The Edwards & Sanborn Solar Project, located in Kern County, California, consists of 864 megawatts of solar energy and 3,287 megawatt-hours of energy storage. 

With robust policies and investments in place, the U.S. continues to enhance its solar energy capabilities, contributing to a more sustainable and resilient energy landscape.

Why Have Solar Installations Increased?

The rise in solar activity is driven by increasing electricity demand, state mandates for clean energy, and financial incentives from the Biden administration's 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. The Inflation Reduction Act offers a 10% tax credit for using U.S.-made content, in addition to a 30% baseline tax credit. While many developers are transitioning to U.S.-manufactured modules, most projects nearing construction are still sourcing panels from Southeast Asia. In 2023, U.S. solar panel imports soared by 82% to 54 GW, reflecting the growing demand. The U.S. installed 40 GW of solar in 2023, but must reach 60 GW per year in the coming years to meet President Biden's climate goals.

“This quarter proves that new federal investments in clean energy are revitalizing American manufacturing and strengthening our nation’s energy economy,” said SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper.

The Future of Solar Energy in the U.S.

Utility-scale solar growth is expected to plateau in 2024 and 2025, due to labor shortages, high-voltage equipment constraints, and ongoing trade policy uncertainties. Additionally, solar energy developers are preparing for higher costs after the Biden administration increased import tariffs on Chinese and Southeast Asian solar products. Last month, President Biden announced plans to raise tariffs on Chinese solar cells and panels from 25% to 50%, citing unfair business practices. U.S. tariffs have minimized direct imports from China, and the White House lifted a two-year exemption on other tariffs for bifacial panels from Southeast Asia, where many Chinese manufacturers have relocated their operations. In addition, the Department of Commerce has launched an investigation into whether Southeast Asian producers are benefiting from government subsidies and dumping products in the U.S. market.

Global investment in clean technology is projected to reach $2 trillion this year, doubling the amount allocated to fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) annual World Energy Investment report. Solar power will lead the way in clean energy generation, with anticipated investments of $503 billion, surpassing the $480 billion recorded in 2023, the IEA noted.

Total energy investment is projected to surpass $3 trillion for the first time this year, with two-thirds allocated to clean technologies. These investments will include clean power, electric vehicles, nuclear power, grids, storage, low-emission fuels, efficiency improvements, and heat pumps, according to the report. The remaining funds will be directed towards gas, oil, and coal. Notably, combined investment in clean power and grids has surpassed spending on fossil fuels for the first time in 2023.

The Role of Government-Owned Land in Solar Energy Production

Government-owned land plays a crucial role in bolstering the growth of solar energy in the U.S. The Department of the Interior has identified and prioritized vast tracts of federal land for renewable energy projects, facilitating the swift deployment of solar installations. Recent government policies have streamlined the permitting process, reducing bureaucratic delays and providing a conducive environment for large-scale solar projects. This proactive approach ensures that developers can access prime locations with high solar potential, accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy.

Additionally, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has designated solar energy zones (SEZs) across multiple states, earmarking over 285,000 acres for solar development. These zones have been chosen based on criteria that include high solar irradiance levels, proximity to existing transmission lines, and minimal environmental impact. By steering projects to these pre-vetted areas, the BLM aims to optimize land use while protecting sensitive ecosystems.

In tandem with federal efforts, states have also leveraged their lands to promote solar growth. For instance, the State of New Mexico has leased multiple parcels for solar energy production, significantly boosting the state’s solar capacity and contributions toward clean energy production. Such collaborative efforts between state and federal authorities ensure a unified strategy for maximizing the potential of government-owned lands in meeting the nation’s renewable energy goals.

These collaborative efforts between government agencies and solar energy developers have also led to a multitude of benefits for the government agencies themselves. Through solar lease payments, these agencies are generating revenue, breathing new life into underutilized properties, and contributing to clean energy production for their constituents while showcasing their commitment to sustainability.

LandGate facilitated the development of 3 clean energy production projects for the State of New Mexico through its platform and marketplace. By listing its properties for lease on LandGate's marketplace, the State of New Mexico was able to connect with a competitive network of renewable energy developers and lease their properties for the most value, all at no cost.

The government team at LandGate can help you analyze the renewable energy production potential of its properties (land, rooftops, parking lots) and connect with renewable energy developers, all at no cost. Book your free consultation call today and learn more here!


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