U.S. Solar Energy Industry Reports Record-Setting 3Q 2013

by Silvio Marcacci.

Solar panels were installed on more American residential rooftops in the 3rd Quarter of 2013 than any other quarter in history, pushing US installed solar capacity over the 10-gigawatt (GW) milestone and potentially ahead of Germany for the first time.

New U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Installations
New U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Installations. Image courtesy of SEIA.

This sunny picture comes courtesy of the US Solar Market Insight (SMI) Q3 2013 report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and it shines a spotlight on the economic power of America’s clean energy transition.

Overall solar installations continued to improve quarter-over-quarter across the US, delivering the second-largest quarter of overall installations in the history of America’s solar market.

US Installs 930MW Solar Energy In 3Q, May Pass Germany In 2013

America’s solar industry installed 930 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) panels in Q3 2013, 20% higher than Q2 2013 and 35% higher than Q3 2013. This blistering pace vaults America over the 10GW capacity mark to reach 10,250MW overall installed capacity across 400,000 solar projects – enough to power more than 1.7 million average US homes and the emissions equivalent of removing 2.1 million cars from the road.

3Q’s results are remarkable, but the US solar market might just be warming up.  The SMI report predicts 1,780MW of PV solar and 800MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) will be installed in 4Q 2013, meaning America will install over 5GW of new solar energy capacity in 2013 – 27% more than 2012 and a new single-year record.

Even more remarkable, SMI’s forecast means the US could install more overall solar capacity in 2013 than Germany, the world’s undisputed solar market leader. Germany is expected to install 4.2GW new solar capacity this year – placing second to another country for the first time in 15 years.

“Without a doubt, 2013 will go down as a record-shattering year for the US solar industry,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO.

Cumulative Solar Photovoltaic installations by Quarter, U.S.A. vs. Germany
Cumulative Solar Photovoltaic installations by Quarter, U.S.A. vs. Germany. Image courtesy of SEIA.

Residential, Utility Installations Lead The Way

Residential solar led the 3Q charge with the market sector’s best-ever quarter, installing 186MW, up 45% compared to 2012. SMI credits favorable net metering policies for improving the economics of solar PV, but warns declining PV module prices could strain manufacturers while benefiting consumers.

The average price of PV panels have fallen more than 60% since the beginning of 2011 and now stands at a national average of $3.00 per installed watt.

“As solar continues its march toward ubiquity, the market will require continued innovation, efficiency improvement and regulatory clarity,” said Shayle Kann, GTM vice president of research.

The utility solar market sector also posted a strong quarter, with 52 projects completed for 539MW and over half of Q3’s total installed capacity. Unfortunately, the rising tide didn’t raise the boats of every industry sector – the non-residential (commercial) market is expected to remain flat through 2013 but may resume growth in 2014. California continues to lead the US solar PV market with 455MW installed in Q3, while Arizona placed second with 169MW installed.

2013 Total Installed Solar Photovoltaics -- by U.S. state. Image courtesy of SEIA.
2013 Total Installed Solar Photovoltaics — by U.S. state. Image courtesy of SEIA.

Solar’s Economic Impacts Ripple Across America

But best of all, As we’ve seen time and time again, the transition to a clean energy future also helps create green jobs. America’s solar industry led the US in green job creation during the third quarter, according to a recent report from E2, and had overall ripple effects across the overall economy.

119,000 workers are now employed at 6,100 businesses in the US solar industry, a 13.2% increase over 2011’s employment totals. Solar projects were valued at $11.5 billion by the end of 2012, up from $8.6 billion in 2011, and just $5 billion in 2010. With exponential growth continuing, it’s not hard to expect another overall valuation jump in 2013.

“This unprecedented growth is helping to create thousands of American jobs, save money for US consumers, and reduce pollution nationwide,” said Resch.

“Frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our industry’s enormous potential.”

2013 Q3 Solar Facts. Image courtesy of SEIA.
2013 Q3 Solar Facts. Image courtesy of SEIA.

This article, US Solar Energy Industry Shines In Record-Setting 3Q 2013, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio MarcacciSilvio Marcacci is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

5 Solar Growth Markets That May Surprise You

by Zachary Shahan

U.S. PV Market Growth Through 1H 2013
U.S. PV Market Growth through the First Half of 2013.

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

You probably know which states have been strong solar growth states over the past several years — California, Hawaii, Arizona, New Jersey, North Carolina…. But below are 4 states and one city that are picking up some serious steam in the solar power arena (can I use “pick up steam” with solar PV?), and that you probably wouldn’t guess are primed to become solar leaders.

GTM Research, which revealed these at Solar Power International last week, has termed them “hidden growth opportunities.” GTM Research projects a total of over 1 gigawatt (1 billion watts) of solar PV demand in these markets between the second half of this year (2013) and 2016. That’s a lot. Solar panel suppliers are going to love these 5 markets.

So, let’s very quickly check out these hot (or soon to be hot) solar markets (in no particular order):

1. Minnesota

Not exactly the sunniest state in the US, state requirements that utilities get 1.5% of their electricity from solar power and 10% from distributed, small-scale power generation systems (systems 20 kilowatts or smaller, such as home solar systems), as well as net metering (which allows solar power producers to sell their electricity back to the grid at retail electricity prices) for systems up to 1 megawatt (MW) in size, could help boost Minnesota’s solar power capacity from about 13 MW today to about 450 MW by 2016. We’ll see….

Notably, for homeowners who go solar in Minnesota, you’re expected (on average) to get a 10% internal rate of return (IRR) on your investment, which beats the S&P 50-year CAGR of 9.9% — very, very good.

2. Virginia

Virginia has low electricity rates and not the best solar resources around. So, how is this state showing up as a hot solar market? Well, a Virginia law, HB 2334, requires that Virginia’s large utility, Dominion Energy, implement a 50-megawatt PPA renewable energy pilot program. 50 megawatts is a sizable pilot project, and who knows what it might stimulate? Virginia also has net metering. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much else going for it when it comes to solar power, except perhaps a lot of people who would like to rely on their own clean electricity source while also saving money. Those are a couple of big incentives, aren’t they?

Investing in solar in Virginia may not be as lucrative as investing in solar in Minnesota, but it’s still projected to save/make the average homeowner more than investing in a 30-year U.S. Treasury Bond or 5-year CD. Homeowners should be going solar in a heartbeat for the IRR available here.

How much will solar save you? Find out in about 60 seconds!

3. Washington, DC

Yes, here’s the non-state. so, I’m sure you’re wondering: what does this little city have that so big to have put it in this list? For one, 2.5 percent of DC power must be from solar by 2023 (projected to be about 250 MW of power capacity). And the city has an undersupplied Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) market, meaning there’s a lot of need for growth there. Also, net metering in DC is allowed for projects up to 5 MW in size (quite large), allowing for more people to take part in (and profit from) relatively large solar projects, even “community solar gardens.”

Investing in solar in DC has a better average IRR than in any state in the US other than Hawaii. 20%! It’s almost a crime to own a roof in DC and not invest in solar power. Also, thanks to the city’s progressive net metering law, even if you don’t own a roof but live in DC, you can take advantage of that great IRR by investing in a community solar garden. Solar panel suppliers must be drooling looking at the DC market.

4. Louisiana

Louisiana has great solar resources, but almost no solar power installed. GTM Research seems to be hopeful that the market will wake up a bit down there in the coming few years. While there aren’t state requirements for utilities to increase their use of solar power, there is net metering and a state tax credit for solar panel installations through 2017. On average, the projected IRR for someone who goes solar in Louisiana is an extremely attractive 9.4%. It’s a no-brainer.

5. Georgia

Another Southern state with little solar power capacity today and a lot of room for growth is Georgia. A few big new policies look to grow the solar market in Georgia considerably, even though solar leasing remains off the table legally. As GTM writes: “Demand for solar in Georgia will be driven by an attractive feed-in tariff and utility-scale RFPs for twenty-year PPAs. The Georgia Advanced Solar Initiative offers 13 cents per kilowatt-hour for distributed generation and 12 cents per kilowatt-hour for utility-scale solar.” Once those are in place, hold on to your hands, solar power installations are going to be flying into place all over the state.

All in all, cities and states across the country are looking to see a lot of solar power growth in the coming years. ¾ of US solar power installations were connected to the grid within just the past 2½ years, ⅔ of solar PV panels shipped around the world by solar panel suppliers have been shipped just within the past 2½ years, and that pattern of rapid solar growth is expected to continue. Solar panel costs have dropped about 60% since early 2011. There’s no reversing that dramatic fall. The market is maturing, and as a market matures, costs come down.

The 5 markets above seem primed for much stronger solar power growth than they’ve seen so far. If you’re in one of these states or DC, you might want to have a look at the solar incentives that are available where you live. Or, even better, you can have us help you with that while you also get hooked up with a local solar contractor and get professional estimates of how much solar would cost you and how much more you could save by going solar.

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This article, 5 Solar Growth Markets That May Surprise You…, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

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