In 2022, solar photovoltaic panel shipments in the United States increased 10% from 2021, setting another annual record (31.7 million peak kilowatts, kWp), based on the latest data published by the US Energy Information Administration. US solar panel shipments have been growing as solar capacity continues to rise.
The shipments closely track domestic solar capacity additions; the difference between the two is usually because of the lag between the time panels are shipped and when they are installed. The figures for solar panel shipments include imports, exports, and domestically produced and shipped panels. In 2022, about 88% of US solar panel shipments were imports, primarily from Asia.
Over the past decade, US solar capacity has boomed, which includes both utility-scale solar farms (with 1 MW of capacity or more) and small-scale solar. The majority of small-scale solar is residential rooftop solar installations.
In the USA, 10.9 GW of new utility-scale solar capacity was added in 2022, the second-largest addition in a single year after the record-setting 13.5 GW added in 2021, according to EIA’s Annual Electric Generator Report. The United States added 6.4 GW of new small-scale solar capacity in 2022, an annual record and 17% more than was added in 2021 (5.5 GW).
Some of the new solar projects that developers originally planned to bring online in 2022 were cancelled or delayed until 2023 because of solar panel supply chain issues. These issues included solar panels stopped at the US border. Customs and Border Protection detained a number of solar panel imports in 2022 as they began enforcing the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act (UFLPA). The UFLPA prohibits importing goods made with forced labour in China’s Xinjiang province. Nearly half of global polysilicon production, an essential material for making solar panels, comes from Xinjiang. Customs released detained panels after importers proved their compliance with UFLPA, but the delay lengthened the timelines for some new solar projects.
Solar panel costs have dropped significantly since 2010, helping fuel solar capacity growth both in the United States and globally. The average value of US solar panel shipments (a proxy for price) has decreased from $1.96 per peak watt (Wp) in 2010 to $0.39/Wp in 2022. The average value of solar panels shipments increased 15% from 2021, amid rising inflation, higher material and shipping costs, and continued supply chain constraints.
EIA uses ‘peak kilowatts’ as the unit of measurement in its solar voltaic module shipment reports. Peak watts are a manufacturer’s unit indicating the DC output a photovoltaic module will produce at standard test conditions (normally 1000 W per square m and 25 deg Celsius).