The United States now generates 3.313 gigawatts of electricity from solar panels according to an announcement Thursday by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in conjunction with GTM Research. SEIA released its report entitled U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2012 which is the definitive analysis of solar in the country.
Despite the fact the cost of solar is falling for consumers, the market size of the U.S. solar industry grew 34% from $8.6 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion in 2012—not counting billions of dollars in other economic benefits across states and communities according to SEIA. As of the end of 2012, there were 7,221 MW of PV and 546 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) online in the U.S. -- enough to power 1.2 million homes.
The U.S. now has 11% of all the solar energy installed in the world. Solar installations in the U.S increased 76% in 2012. The price of solar dropped 27% in 2012 to $5.04/W in the residential market, $4.27/W in the non-residential market, and $2.27/W in the utility market.
SEIA expects solar to increase 29% in 2013 to 4.3 gigawatts along with 946 megawatts of concentrating solar thermal power, which uses mirrors to focus the sun’s energy to drive generators. Unfortunately, SEIA predicted that by the end of 2012 the U.S would have 4 gigawatts of solar in place.
Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA said that there were 16 million solar panels installed in the U.S. last year – more than 2 panels per second of the work day. More solar panels were brought online in 2012 than in the three prior years combined. Rhone attributes the growth to “consistent, long-term policies that have helped to ensure a stable business environment for this country’s 5,600 solar companies”.
“2012 was a busy year in the U.S. solar market,” Shayle Kann, vice president at GTM Research said in the release. “The market value of U.S. solar installations reached $11.5 billion in 2012, up from just $3.6 billion in 2009. Amidst this boom, the industry faced newly-imposed import tariffs on Chinese solar cells and ongoing consolidation in the manufacturing space. In 2013, we expect another strong year, driven in part by new mechanisms to increase the availability, and lower the cost, of solar project financing.”
Although every sector saw increases, most of the solar in 2012 came from large utility-scale projects in Colorado, California, and Nevada. These large scale projects now account for 54% of all installed solar.
Large solar projects were helped by Department of Energy programs as well as Renewable Energy Standards that require utilities to buy certain percentages of their electricity from renewable sources. California and Colorado have the highest renewable standards in the nation.
Colorado dropped out of the top ten in terms of total solar installation in 2012; however it was 5th in terms of residential installations. According to SEIA the top states for total new solar installations in 2012 in megawatts (MW) were:
1. California - 1,033
2. Arizona - 710
3. New Jersey - 415
4. Nevada - 198
5. North Carolina - 132
6. Massachusetts - 129
7. Hawaii - 109
8. Maryland - 74
9. Texas - 64
10. New York – 60
It is essential for the economy of the U.S. that the solar energy industry continues to grow. Every day more evidence surfaces showing how the world is warming faster than predicted. To reverse this trend before it is too late, we must turn to renewable energy. Solar is key to our future energy strategy.