US solar energy outlook

16 Jun 2011

Solar photovoltaic installations in the US rose by 66pc in the first quarter of 2011 to reach 252MW, with New Jersey coming out as the strongest growth market, a report shows.

The latest quarterly outlook on solar energy in the US carried out by the Solar Energy Industries Association  (SEIA) and GTM Research found that in Q1 2011 the US installed 252MW of grid-connected PV, 66pc growth when compared with Q1 2010.

In 2010, the US installed 887MW of grid-connected photovoltaics (PV), a 10.4pc growth over the 435MW installed in 2009.

Despite this, the report says US market share of global installations fell to 5.1pc, down from 6pc in 2009 as a result of even faster growth in solar PV installations abroad.

But, according to the SEIA, while US market share of global installations has wavered between 5pc and 7pc since 2005, this pattern is likely to change in 2011.

The report says a slowdown in major European markets, notably in Italy and Germany, coupled with the continued strength of the US market, has led PV manufacturers and developers to seek opportunities in the US.

It predicts the US is set to become the global market leader for concentrating solar power installations and to nearly double its global market share this year.

However, the SEAI is not forecasting a “single boom year” for the US solar market as to what was experienced in Spain in 2009 or in the Czech Republic in 2010, for example.

“The US market remains driven as much by state-level market dynamics as it does by pricing and supplier competition,” according to the report.

Key findings from the report include that the cumulative grid-connected PV in the US has now reached 2.3GW.

The US solar energy industry is centred around key states, with California remaining the key player. New Jersey was the strongest growth market in the US in 2010 and into early 2011, with the state installing 42MW of solar PV installations, up 49pc over the same period in 2010.

The other top states for PV installations include Arizona, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon and Texas.

Solar panel production in the US in Q1 2011 came to 348MW, 17pc above Q4 2010.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic