New Report Finds US Solar Installations
The U.S. solar energy industry installed a record 1,855 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) capacity in 2011, more than doubling the previous annual record of 887 MW set in 2010, according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report. The record amount of solar installations is enough to power more than 370,000 homes, and represents a 109 percent growth rate in 2011. It is the first time the U.S. solar market has topped one gigawatt (1,000 MW) in a single year. In the fourth quarter of 2011 alone, the industry installed 755 MW, up 115 percent from Q4 2010, for a second consecutive record-breaking quarter. GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA®) estimate the U.S. solar market's total value surpassed $8.4 billion in 2011.
This growth was spurred in part by declining installed solar photovoltaic (PV) system prices, which fell 20 percent last year on the back of lower component costs, improved installation efficiency, expanded financing options, and a shift toward larger systems nationwide. In addition, the anticipated expiration of the U.S. government's 1603 Treasury Program, which ended Dec. 31, 2011, drove developers to commission projects before the end of the year. The report also provides an update on the concentrating solar power (CSP) market. While no new concentrating solar thermal electric capacity was brought online in 2011, a total of 10 concentrating photovoltaic projects came online. The year also saw meaningful construction progress on a number of projects with some capacity expected to come online later in 2012 and a surge in 2013. Today, more than 1,000 MW of CSP are under construction, enough to power 200,000 homes.
As of year-end 2011, cumulative PV capacity in the U.S. reached nearly 4,000 MW and cumulative CSP capacity topped 500 MW. Together this represents enough solar capacity to power nearly a million households. The latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report found 800 MW were installed in the commercial sector in 2011, led by the California and New Jersey markets, compared to 758 MW of utility PV and 297 MW of residential installations. Utility-scale project installations, primarily across states in the Southwest, nearly tripled 2010 totals. In the residential sector, California installed 114 MW, with New Jersey, Arizona, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Colorado each contributing meaningfully to the residential total. According to U.S. Solar Market Insight, 2012 will be another strong year for the PV industry, with installations of more than 2,800 megawatts forecasted. Beyond 2012, the report forecasts installations to continue their ascendancy at a compound annual growth rate of 30 percent through 2016. A separate report on 2011 growth of U.S. solar heating and cooling technology is expected midyear.
2011 Q4 U.S. Solar Market Insight key report findings:
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