US solar industry enjoying ‘record-shattering year’ with 5GW installed

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The third quarter of this year was second only to the final quarter of last year for newly installed PV generating capacity in the US, according to a report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).  

According to GTM Research vice president Shayle Kann, solar is the second largest source of new electricity capacity in the US in 2013, behind only natural gas. GTM and SEIA have jointly published 'US Solar Market Insight 3rd Quarter 2013', which analyses the US solar power market.

In total, the report claims that 930MW was installed during the quarter, a 20% jump on the previous quarter, with over 400,000 solar power installations in place throughout the country by the end of this year. Blended average system prices for PV fell to a new low of US$3/w, a drop of 4.2% on the previous quarter.

Not only did the third quarter of 2013 represent the second largest quarter in the history of the US PV industry, it was also the largest quarter ever for residential installations in the country, with over 186MW of domestic installations during the period. The rapid growth in domestic solar was driven by the increasing economic attractiveness of PV along with fair net-metering policies, according to the report. Year-on-year, domestic installations leaped 45%.

While activity in the utility-scale sector remained flat by comparison, the report’s authors expect “a strong resumption of growth in 2014”. Nonetheless, the report forecasted that around 1GW of utility-scale capacity is expected to be added in the final quarter of this year, the first time any individual industry segment has hit that mark in a single quarter.

State-by-state, California remained the number one market in the country, with 455MW installed in the third quarter 2013.

‘US Solar Market Insight 3rd Quarter 2013’ forecasts that 4.3GW PV capacity will be installed in total over the course of the year in the US. This represents a 27% increase from 2012 figures. Including CSP projects such as Solana and the 392MW Ivanpah CSP project, the report claims total installed capacity this year could hit 5GW. Following the publication of figures from the first quarter of this year, the authors of the edition of the report published in June revised an early prediction of 4.3GW up to 4.4GW – this appears to have dropped back to the original 4.3GW prediction.

According to GTM and SEIA, this year the US could install more capacity than Germany, which would be the first time in over a decade this has occurred.

Rhone Resch, SEIA president and chief executive, called 2013 a “record-shattering year” for the US industry and said: “We’ve now joined Germany, China and Japan as worldwide leaders when it comes to the installation of new solar capacity. This unprecedented growth is helping to create thousands of American jobs, save money for US consumers, and reduce pollution nationwide. When it comes to preparing for America’s future, clean, dependable and affordable solar energy has become the ‘Little Engine That Could’, defying expectations and powering economic growth – and, frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our industry’s enormous potential.”

GTM’s Shayle Kann also said the market would require “continued innovation, efficiency improvement and regulatory clarity”. “But already the groundwork has been laid for a mainstream solar future.”

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