Record Number of Solar Panels Shipped in U.S. in 2021
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. shipments of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules (solar panels) rose to a record electricity-generating capacity of 28.8 million peak kilowatts (kW) in 2021, up from 21.8 million peak kW in 2020. The information is based on data from EIA’s Annual Photovoltaic Module Shipments Report. “Continued demand for U.S. solar capacity drove this increase in solar panel shipments in 2021,” said the EIA.
U.S. solar panel shipments include imports, exports, and domestically-produced and shipped panels. In 2021, about 80 percent of U.S. solar panel module shipments were imports, primarily from Asia.
According to the EIA, U.S. 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),” said the EIA.
Utility-Scale Solar: The United States added 13.2 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar capacity in 2021, an annual record and 25 percent more than the 10.6 GW added in 2020, according to the EIA’s 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: Small-scale solar capacity installations in the United States increased by 5.4 GW in 2021, up 23 percent from 2020 (4.4 GW). “Most of the small-scale solar capacity added in 2021 was installed on homes,” said the EIA. “Residential installations totaled more than 3.9 GW in 2021, compared with 2.9 GW in 2020.”
One reason for the growth of solar, according to the EIA, is that the cost of solar panels has been declining 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,” said the EIA. “Despite supply chain constraints and higher material costs in 2021, the average value of solar panels decreased 11 percent from 2020. “
In 2021, according to the EIA, 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 account for almost half (46 percent) of all U.S. shipments.