Each quarter, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducts the Quarterly Solar Industry Update, a presentation of technical trends within the solar industry, to the solar office staff. Each presentation focuses on global and U.S. supply and demand, module and system price, investment trends and business models, and updates on U.S. government programs supporting the solar industry.

Key updates from the 2021 H1 Quarterly Solar Industry Update presentation, released June 22, 2021:

  • From 2010 to 2020, global photovoltaic (PV) capacity additions grew from 17 gigawatts-DC (GWdc) to 139 GWdc.
    • At the end of 2020, global PV installations reached 760 GWdc.
    • Analysts project increased annual global PV installations over the next 2 years, with continued growth in China, the United States, Europe, and India.
  • In 2020, approximately 100 megawatts of concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) were added in China and another 1.4 GW were under construction at the end of the year.
  • The United States installed 4.0 gigawatts-AC (4.9 GWdc) of PV in Q1 2021—its largest Q1 total ever.
  • At the end of 2020, there were approximately 2.7 million residential PV systems in the United States.
  • The Solar Energy Industries Association reported that in 2020 the U.S. community solar market installed 826 megwatts-DC of community solar installations—a 30% increase year-over-year (y/y)—bringing cumulative capacity to 3 GWdc.
  • Based on the Energy Information Administration’s Short-Term Energy Outlook, annual PV and wind deployment will grow 34% and 8% respectively in 2021 from the record-setting levels achieved in 2020.
  • Median reported price by EnergySage for residential PV systems decreased 4.8% between the second half (H2) of 2019 and the first half (H1) of 2020—the largest decrease since 2017.
  • In a select dataset of utility-scale PV systems owned by 25 regulated utilities, the median system price in 2020 was $1.34/watts-AC ($0.85/watts-DC)—flat y/y in watts-AC but an 8% decrease in watts-DC that was due to increased inverter loading ratio.
  • Monocrystalline silicon (c-Si) PV module prices rose 17% in H1 2021, to $0.24/W—a price not seen since 2019. A large reason for this is because polysilicon, the key feedstock to most PV modules, was up 169% in H1 2021 and 352% y/y, to $28.5/kilogram (kg) at the end of June; prices were as low as $6.3/kg in May and June of 2020.
  • In Q1 2021, U.S. mono c-Si module prices were still 55% above global average selling price.
  • In 2020, global PV shipments were approximately 132 GW—an increase of 7% from 2019.
  • In 2020, 88% of PV shipments were mono c-Si technology, compared to 35% in 2015 (when multi peaked at 58%).
  • In 2020, average module efficiency of modules installed in the United States was approximately 19.7% for mono c-Si, 17.5% for multi c-Si, and 17.7% for cadmium telluride.
  • Module and cell imports into the United States picked up significantly in March and April 2021; the first 4 months of the 2021 had a flat level of PV imports, y/y (9.8 GW).


Presentations are available for download in PDF format below.