More solar modules are being shipped at lower prices than ever before, according to the latest edition of the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Solar Photovoltaic Module Shipments Report.
In January, 1.725 GW of modules were shipped at an average price of $0.36 per watt, tied for the lowest per-W price since EIA began tracking module shipments in 2017. In February, prices fell to new record lows, as 1.728 GW of modules were shipped at an average price of $0.34 per watt. In March, the per-watt price was extended, while a new record was set for total modules shipped, as 2.712 GW of modules were shipped at an average price of $0.34 per watt.
The jump in capacity recorded during March was noteworthy as it happened in the first quarter. Historically, module shipment spikes have occurred later in the year, as developers look to lock in that year’s investment tax credits (ITC) through a safe harbor provision that allows them to pay 5% or more of the cost of a project. Considering that modules represent more than 5% of total project costs, securing modules at the end of the year has been a common way to lock in the prior year’s ITC.
In March, California led the way, as it typically does, with 574 MW of modules shipped to projects in the state. Texas was a close second, with 544 MW of capacity shipped to in-state projects. Five other states recorded more than 100 MW of module shipments in March, a milestone that had not before been accomplished.
The five states were Georgia, shipping 190 MW; Illinois shipping 116 MW; Nevada shipping 131 MW; North Carolina shipping 118 MW; and Virginia shipping 110 MW. Unlike previous versions of the EIA report, the top states for shipments did not feature any surprises, as most of the leading states are known solar hotbeds. Illinois was perhaps the only outlier, although it has solidified its solar commitment in recent years.
Price per watt on the decline
February and March also featured the lowest cost per watt in the history of the report. Both months notched an average cost per peak watt of $0.34, edging out the previous record of $0.36, set in January. That price had been reached four other times since early 2020. The mark also was lower than March 2020’s average price of $0.37 per watt, though drops in average price have become less significant as the solar market has matured. It used to be common for prices to fluctuate a couple of cents per month. That trend leveled out in February 2020, and no single-month change has been greater than 2 cents since.