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.

Solar Means Business: Top 25 US Corporate Solar Energy Users

by Silvio Marcacci

Walmart solar panels
Walmart solar panel image via CleanTechnica

Everyone knows solar energy equals environmental benefits, but did you know solar also adds up to a competitive business advantage for some of America’s largest corporations?

US businesses are installing solar panels at breakneck speed to cut energy costs and improve their bottom line, according to the Solar Means Business 2013” report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Vote Solar.

From Big Box retailers to industrial manufacturers and commercial real estate developers, installing solar energy makes cents for America’s most well-known and efficiently run businesses.

A “Who’s Who” Of America’s Biggest Businesses

Since the inaugural Solar Means Business report in 2012, more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of new solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have been installed on the rooftops of U.S. businesses, non-profits, and government buildings.

“The list of companies moving to clean, affordable solar energy reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the most successful corporations in America,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO.

In fact, the 3,380MW of cumulative commercial solar PV deployment at 32,800 facilities across the US installed through the first two quarters of 2013 represent an increase of more than 40% compared to the same time last year.

While this solar boom for businesses has been wide, it’s also been deep. The 25 companies with the most total solar capacity have more than 445MW of generation installed at 950 different locations – enough to power 73,400 average homes and significantly more than 2012, when the top 25 companies only had 300MW at 730 facilities.

SEIA and Vote Solar contacted every company on the Fortune 100 list and collected data from public databases to compile the report, which only counts on-site PV systems directly supplying power to company facilities, not solar systems selling power to the wholesale electricity market.

Low Solar Energy Costs + Stable Power Prices = Big Business

So what’s driving this shift? As with most business decisions, it comes down to good economics – becoming more profitable through profitable projects with a quick return on investment.

Average Solar Energy PV System Price Decline
Average Solar Energy PV System Price Decline chart via SEIA

Electricity costs represent the single-largest operating expense for most companies, but solar panel prices have fallen 40% since 2010 and new financing models have reduced up-front investment costs, meaning companies can incorporate solar power below local retail utility rates and save money almost immediately.

Installing solar also empowers companies to hedge against volatile utility prices. Once their rooftop solar system is installed or they finalize a solar power purchase agreement (PPA), a portion of their energy bills are locked in, and the company can focus on other changing costs of doing business.

Walmart Dominates The List

But enough about why business are investing in solar, let’s take a look at which corporations are leading the charge. Unsurprisingly, Walmart dominates every major category in Solar Means Business, with 89.43MW of installed capacity (more than twice their closest competitor) across 215 total solar energy systems (60 more than the runner-up) in 12 states.

US Business Solar Energy Capacity
US Business Solar Energy Capacity via SEIA

The only category Walmart doesn’t dominate is overall percentage of facilities on company land. IKEA took home those honors, with a whopping 89% of solar-powered facilities, good for fifth place in installed capacity with 35MW and sixth place in total installed systems with 39 in 20 states.

A majority of the top companies are Big Box brands, but some notable exceptions stick out, including Apple and Johnson & Johnson ranking fourth and seventh on total capacity, while Walgreens and Safeway ranked second and eight respectively on total installations.

Even though the report is prioritizes on-site systems that supply power directly to company facilities, SEIA also tips its hat to commercial real estate developers building solar but not consuming the generated electricity themselves. Developers like Prologis, with 79MW across 34 installations, often focus on strip malls and retail outlets, helping tenants go green.

Solar-Powered Businesses, Right Around The Corner

Solar power is definitely adding up to bigger profits for US businesses, but the biggest benefit of this fast-expanding market may also be normalizing the technology for consumers – perhaps why 92% of American voters support developing more solar energy.

117 million people in 30 states now live within 20 miles of at least one of the installations analyzed by Solar Means Business, meaning one in three Americans can potentially interact with a green (and profitable) business every day.

“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner” added Adam Browning of Vote Solar. “Well solar has turned the corner and found itself on Main Street, USA.”

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This article, Solar Means Business: Top 25 US Corporate Solar Energy Users, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

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

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