GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) will release their “US Solar Market Insight: Q1 2012” report, which has found that the US solar industry continues to expand at the rapid pace that was seen in 2011. During Q1, the US installed 506MW, more than any other Q1 on record. The stellar growth seen over the first three months of the year is attributed to the strong expansion in the commercial market segment.

The report notes that Q1’s activity brings the total amount of solar PV in the US to 4,427MW with CSP facilities providing 516MW. Combined the two solar sources have reached a capacity of 4,943MW in the US alone. “The U.S. solar industry continues to lead the US out of difficult economic times,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “Installations have grown by 85% in the last year.  This growth is coming from consumers who are turning to solar to reduce their energy costs.  In states across the country, Americans are waking up to the realization that putting solar on your home or business is a better investment than the stock market.”

The market report predicts that total 2012 annual solar PV installations will surpass 3,200MW, which are 75% higher than last year’s total and 15% higher than previous annual forecasts for this year. GTM Research and SEIA note that the forecasted installation numbers are due to fast-tracked timelines for large-scale utility projects, greater-than-expected Q1 growth in New Jersey’s commercial market, the number of safe-harbored projects that will still qualify for the US government’s expire 1603 Treasury Program and overall positive outlooks for California’s, Massachusetts’ and Hawaii’s markets.

“We remain bullish in 2012 on all market segments in the US and most of the 23 states we cover in this report,” said Shayle Kann, vice president at GTM Research. “However, 2013 is an open question. The impacts of an import tariff on solar cells imported from China, as well as the expiration of the 1603 Treasury Program, will be felt most next year. This could coincide with a trough of demand in New Jersey and California’s adjustment period into a post-California Solar Initiative (CSI) world to create a temporary slowing of growth. However, we expect the US market to regain momentum thereafter and continue along its path to become a global PV market leader by 2015.”

While the report was mainly positive for the growth of solar in the US, it did note that US solar panel manufacturers continue to face increased global competition, coupled with global trade disputes. The report also acknowledged that pricing for polysilicon and PV components still exhibited softness in Q1 because of the global oversupply that the industry has been dealing with since 2011.