WASHINGTON, USA: The US solar energy industry installed a record 1,855 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) capacity in 2011, more than doubling the previous annual record of 887 MW set in 2010, according to the latest US Solar Market Insight report.
The record amount of solar installations is enough to power more than 370,000 homes, and represents a 109 percent growth rate in 2011. It is the first time the U.S. solar market has topped one gigawatt (1,000 MW) in a single year. GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) estimate the US solar market’s total value surpassed $8.4 billion in 2011.
This unprecedented growth was spurred in part by declining installed solar photovoltaic (PV) system prices, which fell 20 percent last year and a shift toward larger systems. The Dec. 31 expiration of the US government’s 1603 Treasury Program drove developers to commission projects before year-end.
Concentrating solar power projects are expected to come online later in 2012 with a surge in 2013. More than 1,000 MW of CSP are under construction, enough to power 200,000 homes.
As of year-end 2011, cumulative PV capacity in the US reached nearly 4,000 MW and cumulative CSP capacity topped 500 MW. Together this represents enough solar capacity to power nearly a million households.
“In 2011, the market demonstrated why the U.S. is becoming a center of attention for global solar,” said Shayle Kann, MD of GTM Research’s solar practice. “It was the first year with meaningful volumes of large-scale PV installations; there were 28 individual PV projects over 10 megawatts in 2011, up from only two in 2009.”
“The solar industry is the fastest growing industry in America for the second year in a row. What we are seeing in the US is that policies are working to open new markets and remove barriers for solar,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “But we face a number of challenges that have the potential to slow this growth.”