A new report found that in the first quarter of 2012, PV installations rose 85 percent over the same quarter in 2011.
GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released the U.S. Solar Market Insight: Q1 2012 report, released June 13, found that a record-breaking total of 506 MW of capacity was installed during the first three months of 2012. This expansion was in large part due to growth in the commercial market for PV.
Now the country has a PV capacity of 4427MW, plus 516MW of concentrating solar power (CSP), bringing the total solar electric capacity to 4943MW, enough to power 775,000 households.
“The U.S. solar industry continues to lead the U.S. out of difficult economic times,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “Installations have grown by 85 percent in the last year. This growth is coming from consumers who are turning to solar to reduce their energy costs. In states across the country, Americans are waking up to the realization that putting solar on your home or business is a better investment than the stock market.”
The report predicts that total PV installations this year will exceed 3200 MW. That’s 75 percent more than the total for 2011, and 15 percent more than previously expected. The positive forecast is a result of the following:
- accelerated schedules for utility-scale projects
- higher than expected growth in New Jersey’s commercial PV sector
- many safe-harbored projects that will still qualify for the 1603 Treasury Grant program that expired at the end of 2011, and
- high growth particularly in California, Massachusetts and Hawaii
According to the SEIA and GTM Research, 2012 will be another “banner year” for photovoltaics in the U.S. However, the report noted that the year would be a difficult one for domestic solar panel manufacturers, thanks to strong global competition and the brewing trade disputes.
Furthermore, the global market is still dealing with the polysilicon oversupply from 2011, manifested in the form of low prices for panel components.
As a result, U.S. manufacturers produced less than half the amount of solar panels in Q1 2012 than in Q1 2011 – 160 MW compared to 335 MW. Module prices were 47 percent lower than one year ago, down to $0.94 per watt, and the overall average installed price fell 17.2 percent year-on-year.
“We remain bullish in 2012 on all market segments in the U.S. and most of the 23 states we cover in this report,” said Shayle Kann, Vice President at GTM Research. “However, 2013 is an open question. The impacts of an import tariff on solar cells imported from China, as well as the expiration of the 1603 Treasury Program, will be felt most next year.”
“This could coincide with a trough of demand in New Jersey and California’s adjustment period into a post-California Solar Initiative (CSI) world to create a temporary slowing of growth. However, we expect the U.S. market to regain momentum thereafter and continue along its path to become a global PV market leader by 2015.”