Energy Research and Analysis firm Wood Mackenzie has come out with its projections for the impact of Coronavirus on the US solar market. And it makes for grim reading.
The worst case scenario in the report projects that 5 gigawatts (GW) of big US solar energy projects could suffer delays this year if construction is halted for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. This comes even as US utility solar pipeline was at a record 40 GW by the end of 2019.
This 5 GW hit would be out of the 15 GW of installations that were expected for the US this year.
Interestingly, none of the scenarios assumed by the firm consider the risk of outright cancellations, sticking to delays in all cases. That is the silver lining in an otherwise tough prognosis for the sector, that solar today has achieved enough credibility to be considered a critical infrastructure in most US states.
The numbers come even as pressure is growing across the world on solar developers to keep business going. In the US case, developers were already pleading for an extension of the deadline for availing of federal tax credits for rooftop projects. The massive stimulus program in the US has not really addressed these issues for the sector.
Even Wood Mackenzie’s best-case scenario ,with up to four weeks of disruption, will push 2 GW of projects into delays.
Projects that still have to secure financing and place equipment orders at at highest risk, says the firm.
Disruptions to the supply chain and logistics have been cited as the biggest factors behind delays. Developers expect delays in physical site visits for interconnection and commissioning, and workers have had difficulty reaching remote construction sites.
While China’s shutdown in January-Feb hurt supplies, countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand had stepped up, making closures there a bigger risk for module supplies especially. However, with China almost back to normal service again, perhaps the bigger risk is now the situation in the US itself. The US has currently become the global hotspot for the pandemic, overtaking all countries, including China,in terms of number of cases. The next two weeks are guaranteed to be a harrowing time for the country, with cases yet to peak and fatalities mounting too.
We believe, like Europe, the US will need to focus specifically on a green deal to ensure the solar sector in that country comes out without long term damage from the outbreak.