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EGEB: 4 reasons why US solar panel shipments broke records in 2020

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • The US saw a record-breaking solar panel shipment boom in 2020.
  • US onshore wind energy saw record growth in 2020 – more than any other energy source.
  • UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.

US solar panel shipment boom

US shipments of solar panels reached a record high of 21.8 million peak kilowatts (kW) in 2020, 5.4 million peak kW more than in 2019, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Solar panel shipments include imports, exports, and panels produced and sold domestically. 

The shipment increase occurred for the following reasons:

  • A home improvement boom during the pandemic
  • The rush to take advantage of what was assumed to be expiring tax credits
  • Falling solar panel costs
  • Utility-scale solar growth

The EIA points out:

The federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was set to decrease from 26% to 22% at the end of 2020. Some of the solar capacity growth in 2020 was a result of a rush to get projects installed before the expected ITC decrease. However, in December 2020, Congress passed an extension of the ITC, providing a 26% tax credit for solar systems installed from 2020 to 2022 and 22% for systems installed in 2023.

The average solar shipment value dropped from $1.96 per peak watt in 2010 to $0.38 per peak watt in 2020. This was largely caused by lower supply chain costs and an oversupply of modules because of increased production.

In 2020, 89% of US solar panel shipments were imports.

Read more: Scientists develop ‘true’ bifacial solar cells with 29% power output

US onshore wind breaks records

More onshore wind energy was installed in the US in 2020 than any other energy source, accounting for 42% of new US energy capacity, and outpacing solar for the first time in years.

The 2021 edition of the US Department of Energy’s “Land-Based Wind Market Report,” prepared by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, detailed a record 16,836 megawatts (MW) of new utility-scale land-based wind power capacity added in 2020. That represents $24.6 billion of investment in new wind power projects. 

Other key findings include:

  • Wind energy provided more than 10% of total in-state electricity generation in 16 states. Most notably, wind power provided 57% of Iowa’s in-state electricity generation, while wind provided more than 30% of electricity in Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and North Dakota.
  • New utility-scale land-based wind turbines were installed in 25 states in 2020. Texas installed the most capacity with 4,137 MW. Other leading states include Iowa, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Illinois, and Missouri — all of which added more than 1,000 MW of capacity in 2020.
  • Wind turbine prices have steeply declined from levels seen a decade ago, from $1,800/kW in 2008 to $770–$850 per kilowatt (kW) now.

Photo: First Solar

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.