This article was published by the US Energy Information Administration on Sept. 1, 2022
By Lolita Jamison, Elesia Fasching
US shipments of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules (solar panels) rose to a record electricity-generating capacity of 28.8 million peak kilowatts (kW) in 2021, from 21.8 million peak kW in 2020, based on data from our Annual Photovoltaic Module Shipments Report. Continued demand for US solar capacity drove this increase in solar panel shipments in 2021.
US solar panel shipments include imports, exports, and domestically produced and shipped panels. In 2021, about 80 per cent of US solar panel module shipments were imports, primarily from Asia.
US solar panel shipments closely track domestic solar capacity additions; differences between the two usually result from the lag time between shipment and installation. We categorize solar capacity additions as either utility-scale (facilities with one megawatt of capacity or more) or small-scale (largely residential solar installations).
The United States added 13.2 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar capacity in 2021, an annual record and 25 per cent more than the 10.6 GW added in 2020, according to our Annual Electric Generator Report. Additions of utility-scale solar capacity reached a record high, despite project delays, supply chain constraints, and volatile pricing.
Small-scale solar capacity installations in the United States increased by 5.4 GW in 2021, up 23 per cent from 2020 (4.4 GW). Most of the small-scale solar capacity added in 2021 was installed on homes. Residential installations totalled more than 3.9 GW in 2021, compared with 2.9 GW in 2020.
The cost of solar panels has declined significantly since 2010. The average value (a proxy for price) of panel shipments has decreased from $1.96 per peak kW in 2010 to $0.34 per peak kW in 2021. Despite supply chain constraints and higher material costs in 2021, the average value of solar panels decreased 11 per cent from 2020.
In 2021, the top five destination states for U.S. solar panel shipments were:
- California (5.09 million peak kW)
- Texas (4.31 million peak kW)
- Florida (1.80 million peak kW)
- Georgia (1.15 million peak kW)
- Illinois (1.12 million peak kW)
These five states accounted for 46 per cent of all U.S. shipments.