U.S. Solar Power Sector Records Second-Best Quarter In History

Posted by SI Staff on September 12, 2012 No Comments
Categories : New & Noteworthy

The U.S. solar energy industry recorded its second-best quarter in history, having installed 742 MW of solar power in the second quarter, according to a new report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association based on data from GTM Research.

The U.S. now has a cumulative 5.7 GW of installed solar capacity – enough to power more than 940,000 households.

The report also found that the second quarter was the best quarter on record for utility installations, which totaled 477 MW, with eight states posting utility solar installations of 10 MW or greater: California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, New Mexico and New Jersey.

Furthermore, the report forecasts that the utility PV market will remain strong through the last two quarters of this year. There are currently 3.4 GW of utility PV projects currently under construction, and weighted U.S. average system prices were 10% lower than the previous quarter. An additional 1.1 GW of utility PV is expected to begin operation before the end of the year, the report adds.

By the end of this year, a total of 3.2 GW of PV will have been installed in the U.S. this year, representing a 71% increase over last year's total.

For the fourth consecutive quarter, the U.S. residential solar market grew incrementally, installing 98.2 MW. California, Arizona and New Jersey led residential installations nationally, with the smaller-market states of Hawaii, Massachusetts and Maryland demonstrating strong quarter-over-quarter growth.

In addition, the residential segment continues to be highlighted by consumer acceptance of third-party solar ownership models, the report says. The major state markets in California, Arizona and Colorado all saw third-party residential solar account for greater than 70% of total second-quarter installations.

In the California market, the second quarter marks the first time that the average installed price of a third-party-owned system was lower than that of a system purchased outright: $5.64/watt for third-party versus $5.84/watt for directly owned solar systems, according to the report.

In contrast to the utility and residential markets, the non-residential (e.g., commercial, government, nonprofit) segment contracted, falling from 291 MW in the first quarter to 196 MW in the second quarter. Although California (down 45%) and New Jersey (down 35%) contributed to a large part of the decline, these states were not alone: Only 10 of the 24 states the report tracks individually saw quarterly growth in the non-residential market in the second quarter.

This trend was likely due to a combination of factors. In some individual markets, such as New Jersey, it was a result of state-market-specific factors, such as solar renewable energy credit oversupply. In other states, the first quarter had been bolstered by safe-harbored 1603 program installations.

Global oversupply continues to be a major challenge for U.S. PV suppliers, as wafer, cell and module production in the U.S. fell 33%, 25% and 28%, respectively, in the second quarter.

The full second-quarter report is available here

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