Solar Growth Report 2012

Solar Installations Hit Record High

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted June 18, 2012

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), interest in Photovoltaic systems has remained relatively high in recent years, with the first quarter of 2012 at the second highest for installations ever.

Photovoltaic systems (PV), which convert sunlight directly to electricity, have faced some complex ups and downs in the U.S. in regards to financing, tariffs, and state-level demands. However, the bottom line for PV currently is growth. A new SEIA report notes that “the residential and non-residential markets in aggregate grew 35% quarter-over-quarter.” In addition, PV continues to be the largest component of solar market growth in the U.S.

The report states: “A total 1.8 GW of utility PV will likely be connected in 2012, more than double the 2011 total, but the vast majority of that capacity will be completed in the second half of the year.”

For the first quarter of 2012, PV installations hit 506 MW, which is a growth of 85% when compared to the first quarter of 2011. New Jersey earned the title of largest state market, contributing 174 MW of installations for Q1. California came next (with 148.4 MW), and Arizona after. As for overall PV use throughout the country, the SEIA report says, “Cumulative operating PV capacity in the U.S. now totals 4,427 MW.”

The residential market for PV remains small in comparison to the commercial and utility markets; however, it has also shown the most stability. About the residential market, the report says, “As noted in previous reports, the overarching trend in the residential market is the shift from host-owned systems to third-party ownership through power-purchase agreements (PPA) or lease structures.” SolarCity and Real Goods Solar, both mentioned in the report, may be leading the way in this trend.

Prices for PV systems continue to be low, and have even dropped since the first quarter of 2011. For three categories of installment--residential, commercial, and utility--prices have fallen 7.3, 11.5, and 24.7 percent, respectively. Prices for components of PV as well as polysilicon have also gone down, and first-quarter prices for blended modules were 47% lower than what they were in 2011’s first quarter.

The report further notes that U.S. installations of PV systems in 2012 will likely total 3.3 GW. According to the 29.9 GW estimation made by GTM Research for installations globally, this would place the U.S. at nearly 11% of global installations for 2012. This is considerable growth in light of the fact that the U.S. contributed only 7% in 2011, and 5% in 2010. If the U.S. does in fact reach these numbers, it will make the country the fourth-largest in the global PV market; it will also be one of only a handful of major markets that can expect such growth to continue.