US surpasses 1GW annual PV installs for the first time

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Solar PV installations in the US reached a record 1,855MW in 2011, according to GTM Research and US trade organization, SEIA, in a joint report. In 2010, the previous record year for the US, 887MW had been installed. Installations therefore easily surpassed the annual 1GW milestone and grew 109% year-on-year. Significantly, the fourth quarter saw installs almost mirror the 2010 total, reaching 755MW, an increase of 115% from the same quarter a year ago. The report: US Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2011, noted that the expiration of the US government's 1603 Treasury Program boosted completions, especially in the commercial sector at year-end.

“In 2011, the market demonstrated why the U.S. is becoming a center of attention for global solar,” commented Shayle Kann, managing director of GTM Research's solar practice. “It was the first year with meaningful volumes of large-scale PV installations; there were 28 individual PV projects over 10MW in 2011, up from only two in 2009. Furthermore, the market continued to diversify nationally; eight states installed more than 50MW of solar each last year, compared to just five in 2010. These are all indicators of a vibrant market.”

On a sector and regional basis, the report highlighted that in the residential sector, California installed 114MW, with New Jersey, Arizona, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Colorado each contributing meaningfully to the residential total.

In the commercial sector, 800MW was installed in 2011, led by the California and New Jersey markets, compared to 758MW of utility PV and 297MW of residential installations.

Utility-scale project installations, primarily across the southwest, nearly tripled 2010 totals, according to the report. No new solar thermal capacity was added but a total of 10 CSP projects came online.

“The solar industry is the fastest growing industry in America for the second year in a row. What we are seeing in the U.S. is that policies are working to open new markets and remove barriers for solar,” added Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “The industry is now poised for years of multi-gigawatt growth and the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs. But we face a number of challenges that have the potential to slow this growth. That is why SEIA now coordinating the industry's federal and state policy initiatives to present a unified, cohesive voice for the solar industry.”

Cumulative PV capacity operating in the US ended the year at 3,954MW.

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