US solar market reaches record quarterly installations

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According to a report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the US solar market continues to boom but gloomy clouds are circling over future growth. The US installed 449MW in the third-quarter and surpassed the 1GW level, exceeding last year’s level. GTM Research is forecasting fourth quarter installation figures to exceed those set in the third quarter. However, without an extension of the US Treasury’s 1603 program, there is growing concern that installations will slow down in late 2012 and into 2013.
 
“The US solar industry is on a roll, with unprecedented growth in 2011,” noted Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “Solar is now an economic force in dozens of states, creating jobs across America. But our industry needs stable policy on which to make business decisions and unfortunately an underlying mechanism for financing solar projects is scheduled to expire on December 31. To keep the industry growing and creating jobs in the US we need Congress to extend the 1603 program. The 1603 program has done more to expand the use of renewable energy than any other policy in U.S. history. Our country is not in a position to have Congress turn their back on American industries, and it is critical that Congress extend the 1603 program in the few days left before the end of the year.”
 
According to the report, grid-connected PV installations in Q3 2011 experienced 39% over Q2 2011 and 140% growth over Q3 2010. 
 
Not surprisingly, the utility-scale market grew the fastest as the massive project pipelines of key companies in the US market continued to roll-out large projects. GTM Research noted that over 200MW installed in Q3 was attributed to the utility market; an expansion of over 400%, compared to the prior quarter. The residential PV market was said to have grown 21% q-on-q to almost 75MW.
 
On a regional basis, California regained a substantial share with 44% (196.7MW) of installations in the quarter. New Jersey was ranked second with 64.6MW installed. Excluding California, the next six largest state markets combined comprised of 45% of quarterly installations. 
 
“US solar is entering 2012 with a sense of cautious optimism,” commented Shayle Kann, managing directory of the solar practice at GTM Research. “There are three questions on the mind of everyone in the market: one, what would be the impact of the 1603 Treasury Program’s expiration; two, can emerging commercial markets like Massachusetts, Colorado, Ohio, Tennessee and Hawaii ramp up as major markets like California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania trend downward; and finally, how will the trade petition against Chinese solar imports impact market dynamics, both in the immediate term and if duties are ultimately levied?”
 

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