Report: Solar market soared in 2012

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has released a study showing that photolvoltaic (PV) installations grew 76% in 2012 over 2011 to total 3,313 megawatts (MW) with an estimated market value of $11.5 billion.

With another record-breaking year, solar is the fastest growing energy source in the United States, powering homes, businesses and utility grids across the nation, SEIA says.

The report is based on a study by GSM Research and SEIA titled “U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year in Review 2012,” an analysis of solar power markets in the United States.

Every market segment—residential, non-residential and utility—showed growth over 2011, while the overall markets in most U.S. states expanded as well. Installed prices for PV systems fell 27% during 2012 and at least 13% in each market segment. Nearly 83,000 homes installed solar PV, and cumulative PV installations in the United States surpassed 300,000.

In addition to record annual installations, the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2012 shattered all-time quarterly records as well, with 1,300 MW of installed PV, besting the previous high by a whopping 64%. The residential and utility segments had their best quarters ever, installing 144 MW and 874 MW respectively.

“2012 was a busy year in the U.S. solar market,” said Shayle Kann, vice president at GTM Research. “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.”

The non-residential segment, which includes commercial, governmental, and non-profit systems, installed more than 1,000 MW in 2012. Leading non-residential markets included California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts and Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the utility market continues to be dominated by installations in the desert southwest. There were 152 utility solar installations in 2012, and eight of the 10 largest projects currently in operation were completed in 2012. These installations represented 54% of total installed capacity, or 1,782 MW.

“There were 16 million solar panels installed in the U.S. last year – more than 2 panels per second of the work day – and every one of these panels was bolted down by a member of the U.S. workforce,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “We’ve brought more new solar online in 2012 than in the three prior years combined. This sustained growth is enabling the solar industry to create thousands of good jobs and to provide clean, affordable energy for more families, businesses, utilities, and the military than ever before. This growth simply would not have occurred without consistent, long-term policies that have helped to ensure a stable business environment for this country’s 5,600 solar companies – many of them small businesses.”

SEIA and GTM Research expect the growth to continue into 2013 and beyond. For this year, the report forecasts 4,300 MW of new PV installations, up 29% over 2012, and 946 MW of concentrating solar power. Over the next four years, the residential and non-residential markets are expected to gain market share as system prices decline, the industry becomes even more efficient, and new financing channels arise. “All of these data point to solar having turned the corner,” added Resch.

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