2020 saw growth in the renewable energy industry and this trend is likely to continue in 2021. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts renewable energy’s share of US electricity generation will rise from 20% in 2020 to 22% in 2021. The EIA also projects the electric power sector will add 15.4 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar generating capacity in 2021. Solar will account for 39% of all new US electricity generation capacity in 2021, surpassing wind for the first time.
The main challenges facing the solar industry in 2021 are supply chain issues and social distancing measures. Maintenance can often require two technicians which creates the need for social distancing protocols. This increases costs and reduces efficiency. As a result, the sector could see more investment in predictive analytics and remote monitoring in 2021. In 2020, an explosion and flood resulted in a halt in production of polysilicon, a key material for photovoltaic cells, at two Chinese factories. This sent polysilicon prices surging as a result. Rising costs have rippled through the solar supply chain with module prices experiencing the first quarterly rise since 2015. This could be bad news for project developers who bid low prices assuming equipment costs would remain low.
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