Small-scale photovoltaic systems accounted for about 37% of the electricity generated by all U.S. solar generators in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Small-scale systems have less than 1 megawatt of generating capacity and are usually installed in residential, commercial or industrial areas at or near the customers using them.
The residential sector has 52% of small-scale solar power generators. The systems in the sector have a capacity of about 5 kilowatts, but in the commercial sector, the systems have an average capacity of 200 kilowatts, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Between 2014 and 2016, electricity produced by small-scale photovoltaic systems nearly doubled, “but its share of total solar PV generation has decreased as utility-scale solar PV generation increased even faster,” according to the EIA. “As more utility-scale solar plants are added, the average size of a utility-scale solar PV plant entering service has also increased,” rising to more than 17 megawatts in 2016, from 10 megawatts in 2014.
The largest utility-scale solar plant in the United States is a 250 megawatt plant near Las Vegas, and it started operating at the end of 2016. Small-scale solar generators in California produced 43% of the power generated by all small-scale systems in the United States in 2016. Between 2014 and 2016, the amount of electricity produced by the systems in New Jersey has fallen to 9%, from 12%. Unlike other states, the majority of the systems in the state are commercial sector systems.