Solar Market Doubling

Report follows a tough week

Bill Opalka | Sep 20, 2011

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The U.S. solar market is still on track to double its capacity addition record this year over 2010, as indicated by a new report from organizations that track industry statistics. The U.S. also is gaining a greater share of the worldwide market.

The report comes on the heels of Congressional hearing that tried to dissect the failed federal loan guarantee to Solyndra, which is leaving the taxpayers on the hook for $535 million. The industry is focused on the good news, with a difficult economic condition nationally.

The U.S. solar energy industry continued this growth, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)'s latest quarterly U.S. Solar Market Insight report.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) led the market, which installed 314 megawatts in the second quarter, 69 percent more than the same period last year and 17 percent more than the first quarter of 2011. The expectation of 1,750 megawatts of PV in 2011, double last year's total, holds.

 “The second quarter sounds a lot like the first, and that’s a good thing,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA.

Policies have had an impact. New Jersey’s commercial segment has surpassed California’s for the first time in the second quarter.

California now has 30 percent of the market, down from 80 percent in 2004. That’s not because California is shrinking, but because the rest of the country is growing faster.

Resch had to address the recent headlines, which has preoccupied the solar industry in recent weeks.

“As with any dynamic and highly competitive global market, some companies will prosper and others will fail. And that is the case with Solyndra,” Resch said.

At another point in the conference call, Resch said, “It’s a big mistake to characterize what’s going on in the industry with what happened with Solyndra.” He emphasized manufacturing growth and the employment of 100,000 in all industry segments in the U.S.

He pointed to 27 new manufacturing facilities starting production in 2010 and 2011, across the country.

Also, the study points out that the utility and commercial market segments grew 37 percent and 22 percent respectively in the second quarter. The residential PV segment, however, stuttered for the second consecutive quarter, installing 60 megawatts, a 5.7 percent drop over last quarter.

In the concentrating solar market, including both concentrating solar power (CSP) and concentrating PV technologies, over 600 megawatts are now under construction in the U.S. The U.S. concentrating solar pipeline now holds more than 7,000 megawatts.

Other highlights in the report include:

  • Grid-connected PV installations in Q2 2011 grew 69 percent over Q2 2010 and 17 percent over Q1 2011 to reach 314 megawatts (MW), enough electricity to power nearly 63,000 homes.
  • Cumulative grid-connected PV in the U.S. has now reached 2.7 gigawatts, enough to power 540,000 homes.
  • For the first time, New Jersey's commercial market exceeded California's, making it the largest commercial market in the country.
  • Six states installed more than 10 MW each in Q2 2011 compared to only three states in all of 2007.
  • A slowdown in global demand led U.S. module production to fall 11 percent in Q2 from Q1, to 333 MW.

 

Weaker-than-expected global demand conditions also led to a price decline in Q2, with wafer and cell prices each dropping 25 percent and module prices falling 12 percent on the quarter.

One wonders what the fallout from Solyndra will be on the next reports.

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