Overall U.S. solar electric capacity, including both photovoltaic and concentrating solar power installations, increased by 37% last year despite the recession, according to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Growth was driven primarily by strong demand in both the residential and utility-scale markets, state and federal policy advances and declining technology prices. As a result, total solar market revenue reached $4 billion – a 36% increase over 2008's numbers. In addition, the solar sector added 17,000 jobs. It now employs 46,000 U.S. workers and supports an additional 33,000 jobs in other sectors.
‘When the president looks back at how stimulus dollars were invested, he's going to see that solar was one of the best returns on investments in 2009 for the American taxpayers,’ says Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. ‘In addition to strong policies at the state and federal level, solar's growth was driven by the emergence of new business models and declining prices.’
‘The right policies and industry innovation continue to drive solar's growth across America,’ adds Resch, who expects this year to be a ‘breakout’ year for solar. ‘Now we're talking gigawatts of solar, not megawatts.’
The report also found that solar water heating grew by 10% over 2008's numbers. Solar pool heating growth, however, was 10% less than 2008 growth, reflecting the decline in construction and housing markets.
Grid-tied photovoltaic installations grew by 38%. Residential grid-tied PV solar installations showed particularly strong growth, doubling from 78 MW to 156 MW. Non-residential grid-tied PV solar installations, in contrast, grew 2% less than in 2008.
The concentrating solar power (CSP) sector saw three new plants come online in 2009. Cumulative CSP capacity in the U.S. reached 432 MW, with a development pipeline totaling more than 10,000 MW.
The utility market saw notable growth, with utilities tripling their rate of grid-tied PV capacity additions from 22 MW to 66 MW, SEIA adds. The total utility-scale pipeline (across all solar technologies) reached 17 GW.
Solar manufacturing continued to grow, with a 7% increase in PV module production from 2008 to 2009. Internationally, the U.S. ranks behind Europe and Asia in solar manufacturing, SEIA notes. However, there are 58 new solar manufacturing facilities being built in 20 states, including Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
California continued to lead the U.S. in new solar electric capacity in 2009, with 220 MW. The state was followed by New Jersey (57 MW), Florida (36 MW), Arizona (23 MW), Colorado (23 MW), Hawaii (14 MW), New York (12 MW), Massachusetts (10 MW), Connecticut (9 MW) and North Carolina (8 MW).
Hawaii installed the most solar electric capacity per capita in 2009 (10.4 W per capita), while Nevada has the most cumulative solar electric capacity per capita (38 W per capita).
At 481 MW, the U.S. ranked fourth in new solar electric capacity in 2009, behind Germany (3,000 MW), Italy (700 MW) and Japan (484 MW). The U.S. (2,108 MW) also ranked fourth in cumulative solar electric capacity, behind Germany (8,877 MW), Spain (3,595 MW) and Japan (2,628 MW). The U.S. ranked 10th in new solar electric capacity per capita (1.6 W per capita) and ninth place in cumulative solar electric capacity per capita (6.9 W per capita).
The full report is available here.