Amount of US solar panels grew by 85 % in Q1 2012

Jun 13, 2012 12:00 AM

by Ehren Goossens

Developers installed 85 % more solar panels in the US in the first quarter than a year earlier, led by strong growth in commercial projects and demand in New Jersey, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Total US installations were 506 MW in the quarter and may reach 3,300 MW this year, about 11 % of the 2012 global market, the Washington-based trade group said in its quarterly market report. That will make the US the fourth-largest solar market this year, and one of the few countries where growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, according to GTM Research, a Boston consulting company that prepared the report with SEIA.

Falling prices are making solar energy an economical energy choice for US homeowners and businesses.
“The economics have improved dramatically, with companies realizing it’s a good hedge against rising energy prices,” Rhone Resch, chief executive officer of SEIA, said.

Non-residential solar projects, which include commercial, government and non-profit companies, totalled 288.8 MW, up 77 % from a year earlier, according to the report.
New Jersey, the top solar state, added 174 MW in the quarter, 34 % of all US installations, including 122 MW of non-residential projects.
California was the second-largest solar market with 148 MW installed. The top global markets this year will be Germany, Italy and China.

Installed prices for all US solar systems fell 17 % to $ 4.44 a Watt.
Prices for utility plants dropped 25 %, residential installed prices fell 7.3 %, and non-residential projects declined 11.5 %.

‘Open question’
The price of solar panels dropped 49 % in the past year as manufacturers, mainly based in China, increased production and triggered a global oversupply. The impact of an import tariff on Chinese solar cells and the expiration last year of a US Treasury grant program for renewable energy will be felt most next year, Shayle Kann, vice president at GTM, said.
“We remain bullish in 2012 on all market segments,” Kann said. “However, 2013 is an open question.”

Total US solar installations may grow to 10 GW a year by 2015, Resch said.

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